Group hug, anyone?

After the unnecessary roadtrip into the realm of crunchy bedsheets on Tuesday and Wednesday, we were dropped into a strategic planning meeting. It was held off-site on Thursday. Knowing where you’re going is important, and a critical part of my job is to guide investment strategy decisions.

Under a prior organizational regime, this was a vile, evil multi-functional process, consisting of two consecutive weeks of Power Point Poisoning, no written documentation, confused and often conflicting purpose (including annual data-collection, program execution evaluation in addition to strategic planning). Dozens of individuals were derailed from actual work to support “chart making” – both the compulsory charts and those used in the freestyle portion of the competition* for resources.

The architect of the new, improved process is none other than the Chief of Operations – and organizational goose slayer – my friend T.  Since the new process is streamlined and focused, it is tying up far fewer human resources. There were many people** who were apparently miffed at being “left out” of the process.

The day before the big meeting, T shipped an e-mail with logistics for the planning session to those involved.  With more patience than i could muster on my best day – soaking in a tub with vicodin and chocolate – he included the following:

ATTENDEES – Division Chiefs, Portfolio Managers, and a few staff members are the only invitees to the Thursday, 8 May meeting. The Portfolio Managers and a few additional players might be asked to come in on Friday, 9 May. Div Chiefs/Deputies, please be sure other division personnel (such as your Technical Directors, Branch Technical Advisors) know that while they are still cherished members of our team they are not needed for this particular meeting.

* i’ve considered sponsoring an annual event known as “The Program Management Olympics” — and one key challenge is to present information to an unknown audience, using materials prepared by someone else… No doubt, i’d be a gold medalist…

** These are, by the way, many of the same people who whined endlessly about having to do the old process…

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15 thoughts on “Group hug, anyone?

  1. ‘Mandatory Management Mayhem’ has always been the bane of bureaucracies. Your ability to find humor in it instead of screaming “fuckshitpiss!” (in the meeting, anyway) makes you a candidate for top management. Then YOU can make the silly ass rules to mess with the minds of your devoted minions. Yay!

  2. Bureaucratic talk-fests are the stuff of life for those people trapped within the organisational tentacles of big company/Govt Department. It possibly would have been better to keep the old event but hive off the essential people into a newer, smaller group. I think it was a part of “The Peter Principle” that decision-making can only be carried out by a group of no more that 12. As a committee increases in size (which is natural), then a smaller group within take on the decision making process. Look at Government in the Westminster system (the ultimate committee). It has all its members, with some selected to be the “Cabinet”. In a number of countries those cabinets have become too large and there is now a third level, “The Inner Cabinet”. No one at “inner cabinet level can afford a group hug because the tightrope they are walking is too thin to do anything but move in a straight line! [good grief – this is Sunday morning – stop making me rant on like a fool!]

  3. Speaking of Power Point…Whatever the hell it is I found out on Friday. My 3rd grade son did a mom day slide show. Oh yea he did. Emfuckingbarrassing it was. Umm let’s see. My mom watches forensic Files. My mom pees on her hands. Here’s one…My mom saves all her beer bottle caps. Power Point can go to hell.

    Sorry I had to rant. Anyway, what were you saying?…

  4. Okay got through the rest. Rant above, do forgive me. Now if I only had a vat of Vicadin. Oh, why don’t they have a Son day? Hmmm? Fucker split me in two and this is what I get? Oh and his dam flower never sprouted.

    Anyway, back to you and your stuff. You could just smash your head into the table from sheer boredom and maybe they will retire you early? It’s worth a shot. back to this power Point? Whatever this program is, it should be banned from schools. I never gave anyone permission to Power Point anything. I mean really, Mom’s Day and Power Point. What is this world coming to? Gimme a fucking card kid. A flower, anything but a power point slideshow. You know what I’m saying? I double dog dare you to ask The Boy to do a Power Pointer on you Daisy. Triple dog dare.

  5. consisting of two consecutive weeks of Power Point Poisoning, no written documentation, confused and often conflicting purpose (including annual data-collection, program execution evaluation in addition to strategic planning).

    This sounds like my employer’s Performance Management Process.

    @ upset waitress: I loved your rant about Powerpoint, especially “My mom pees on her hands.“. Where would he have ever gotten such an idea? 🙂

  6. gnu – what? i have to stop saying “fuckshitpiss” in meetings?

    archie – no problem with the rant! understand the frustration! i’ve got a major program planning activity underway, and we’re trying hard to keep the “advisory committee” under 10 people for those very reasons – but i keep being told to “add someone from…” this department or that functional group. i will eventually have to have an “inner” group to overcome the inertia…

    uw – you are in rare form tonight! we love it! The Boy will likely take you up on that challenge… doubt i’ll post the results. For mother’s day he showed up about an hour ago (1:00 am) and started drinking my beer. Good start!

    rob – we have a performance eval process that is pretty complicated – and beyond the preparation, the meeting of managers to do the final ‘rack and stack’ takes a full week, locked in a vault with no interruptions. i was hospitalized for heart problems the last year i was a supervisor.

  7. “** These are, by the way, many of the same people who whined endlessly about having to do the old process…”

    So true, damn them, so true. I vote we promote them so THEY can sit through these meetings and we can all go have serious attitude adjustment in the nearest acceptable bar.

  8. final ‘rack and stack’

    Yeah, my employer refers to this as “calibration”. There’s a “curve” too:
    20% – Outperforming
    75% – Meeting expectations
    5% – Needs improvement
    So, 5% of the workforce is forced into “Needs Improvement” regardless and they must “buck up” or ultimately face dismissal (after “corrective action”), I guess.

    I’m way past really caring about any of this stuff. My preferred gig would be as a consultant where I could just do the work and take a “pass” on all the other stuff that’s expected of employees. I knew of a retired engineer who had become a consultant and his sentiment was that he could a lot more work done when he didn’t have to contend with “staph” meetings, etc.

    During my last performance review I actually told my supervisor that I loathe the whole goal setting and performance management and evaluation process. In the words of Lewis Black, “….it’s a good thing I had a spoon in my hand. So I could shove it up my ass. Because if I’m going to be in that much pain, then I’m going to have control of it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called empowerment.”

    I figure it should be simple: Am I doing what’s expected (and a decent job of it)? If yes, then reward me. If not, kick my ass out the door.

  9. awalkabout – when i supervised, i went nuts with the complaints about “not knowing what’s going on” followed by complaints about my monthly group meeting, held to 1 hour, packed with as much “going on” info as i could – as being “another damn meeting keeping them out of the lab doing real work”. Stinkin’ babies…

    rob – Consulting is the answer – and perhaps when i’m tending bar post-retirement, there will be the occasional call for my brainpower will arrive to fund my pesky travel habit. The quotas are difficult – but at least your organization targets those needing improvement. Better than everyone getting points for showing up!

  10. I hated being a manager because every time I had to correct somebody, they not only whined, a lot of them burst into tears. (Nurses are notoriously soft-hearted, about themselves and anybody else.) I wanted to slap them and tell them it was a learning opportunity. Cripes!

    At least I never got high enough up to have to endure strategic planning and Power Point.

  11. silverstar – ugh! i HATE dealing with tears…. i had a senior female physicist who was dealing with a lot of personal stress, and i suspected she was also dealing with menopause-related issues. when i made a decision that didn’t go her way, she sat in her office and cried for 3 days. i got tired of people coming by to tell me “X is crying…” so i finally started telling them “Yes, it’s because of something i did….”…

  12. DF (ha!), you give me too much credit. My entire management approach and style can be traced directly back to you putting me onto Despair Inc. Three of their quotes are no “fuckshitpiss” kidding the actual foundation that gets me through the day, those being
    “Worth” – Just because you’re necessary doesn’t mean you’re important.
    “Meetings”-None of us is as dumb as all of us.
    And my favorite and the one I use every single hour of every work day:
    “Get To Work”-You aren’t being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.

  13. T – Although you’ve patterned your teachings after the gurus of Despair, your quiet, non-reactive, slow-blinking stare that says “are you done speaking bullshit yet? i have actual work to do…” is a gift that can’t be learned. And don’t slip up and start calling me “daisyfae” in the office. They’ll think that’s my stripper name….

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