Posted tagged ‘idea’

Of bad ideas and humility

April 18, 2012

Low wattage lightbulb on this occassion

“Don’t interfere with that which you don’t fully understand or manage especially when working in a highly hierarchical organisation such as local government.”

That is the (perhaps wrong) lesson I took as I walked home from work last Tuesday after having what can only be described as not one of my finest hours. I thought it might be instructive, and a little cathartic, to share my experience.

Last week I was sitting with a manager in a team that is not related to my day to day job and discussing some of the problems he has been having. Many of the problems were external to his team and he wasn’t sure what could be done about them organisationally.

At that stage I had an idea.

It wasn’t necessarily a good idea (I thought it was a brilliant idea at the time), and it was on the radical/crazy end of normal working practices but it was an idea nonetheless. I persuaded the manager that he was ok with the idea and that I was the best person to go off and pursue the idea. I then went off in search of someone with some clout who might be willing to a) listen and b) implement what had become in my mind ‘the idea’.

I spoke to a couple of senior-ish managers and although no-one enthusiastically embraced ‘the idea’ they all thought it ‘might’ be worth a try and suggested I go and have a chat with someone from one of the other teams that would be impacted by my idea and see what they thought.

By this stage ‘the idea’ and I were best friends and I was fully signed up to the idea that it would definitely work. My misconception was fully punctured by my next discussion. The member of staff in the other team affected by ‘the idea’ was not happy at all. And by not happy I mean severely peeved, monumentally miffed and fundamentally chagrined. He saw my intervention as having an ulterior motivation and made it very clear that if I suggested it to any other people he would ensure that ‘the idea’ failed and me with it. He was annoyed that I had talked to his managers and generally felt that my advocacy of the idea showed me to be a weak and misguided member of staff.

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Clocking off from clocking in

February 17, 2011

Time for a change of approach?

I had a chat with my boss the other day.  It revolved around the amount of time I was working and my penchant for keeping a track of this by completing a timesheet every day.  This timesheet was a simple excel spreadsheet which tracked the numbers of hours I’d worked each month as I filled out my starting, finishing and lunch times.  Being a responsible sort I’ve got these dating back to my first week at the Council, and can pick out everything from long lunches to 72 hour weeks (rare but draining).

The chat with my boss wasn’t about seeing mine however; she told me to stop completing them.  Apparently I’ve now reached a level where the exact number of hours I work is far less relevant than the actual work I complete; effectively, I’m judged on outcomes not hours.

Since this chat I’ve stopped filling in those little boxes and noticed something: I’ve been doing slightly longer hours and feeling better about doing so.  Whereas before I would try my damnedest to stick to my 37.5 hour working week, maybe adjusting my start or leaving time by 15 minutes or so and clock watching as either rolled around, now I find myself arriving at and leaving the office when I’m happy with my days work.  And I feel better for this.

I get the distinct impression that I’m not alone here.  I have in all but writing been running my own team like this for some time, asking them to do their weeks work whether it takes them 30 hours or 45.  The relaxing of monitoring them and having them stick to strict times for starting and finishing has made them a more flexible and responsive team, happy to work longer when needed safe in the knowledge that this will come round to reward them when times aren’t quite so busy, or when they have personal appointments to be kept.

To put it simply, I trusted my staff.  I trusted them to understand the work they were being asked to do and to get it done, and I trusted them to be responsible about their working hours. (more…)