What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bagged salad. I need a steady supply of fresh “exotic” greens to keep the resident tortoise healthy and happy. The most convenient way to procure these greens is usually by picking up a bag-o-salad since I’m more focused on variety than buying in bulk. What I end up with half the time, though is a slimy gelatinous mass in my crisper drawer – often before I’ve even opened the bag. There’s got to be a better way to package this stuff that doesn’t leave it turned into a bag of green, foul smelling water the minute it leaves the supermarket.

2. The next question. Most people are OK at asking the question. What they generally suck at is asking the next question or the one after that. Most people are crap when it comes to really drilling down through an issue and getting at real causes. The surface answer is usually the easy one – the one that doesn’t offend anyone or hurt any feelings. Drilling down into the what and why tends to be invasive and means putting more noses out of joint and occasionally making life uncomfortable. Go ahead and be the person who make things uncomfortable now and then. You’ll be amazed at what you can find out.

3. Leftovers. I usually like leftovers but I’m in a rut at the moment. The last few weeks I’ve made my traditional big Sunday dinner and then a pot of soup on Monday. My logic was that it would give me plenty enough to ensure non-sandwich lunches and minimal cooking the rest of the week. I’m coming to the unhappy realization that even as much of a creature of habit as I am, I can’t eat the same two meals four four days in a row. It’s really kind of a disappointment, because it was a wonderful time saving plan… which seems to have lots a lot of points in execution.

The learning cliff…

Not every day can be stellar. I’m fine with that. At the moment, though, I’m frustrating the hell out of myself with the things I don’t know the answers to yet… Like who needs to review which documents, what office is responsible for some random project, the name of the go-to guy for some obscure and arcane piece of minutia. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to lose my institutional memory. I knew who those people were just by virtue of having been around for a long time. Today’s just one of those days that feels like falling off the learning cliff instead of running up the learning curve. I’ll feel a damned sight better when I’ve figured out the magic questions to ask in order to get the answers I need. In the meantime, I’ll keep my head down and powder dry. Frustrating as it is, I’ll take it any day over random chaos.

Send me the electrons…

I’m always happy to consult with a colleague whenever they have an issue or need to talk through a new idea. Really, I think of myself more as a facilitator than as a “do-er.” That is to say I specialize in getting the person needing the answer and the person who has the answer together so they work together to find the mutually acceptable solution. In practice, that means I need to know where content lives more than I need to know actual content. Knowing how and who to ask for things is every bit as important as being able to do the actual work involved. The two live in symbiosis – knowledge and action.

The real problem starts when you run into someone who neither has the knowledge or the ability to take action. Take the example of Mr. X for instance. At least twice a day Mr. X comes to my little section of cubicle hell and asks me to proofread and email he wants to send – usually a message asking for something or verifying some type of information. These emails are all well and good – I mean the rapid transmission of information is one of the reasons email is a great form of communication – but it’s not really an “email” when the “draft” you send me to look at is scratched out on the back of an old memo.

Seriously. I don’t know how exactly many times I can tell someone to just “send me the electrons” before it sinks in that I’m not going to spend time making “pen and ink” changes. Of course the need for these changes could be eliminated if we could all just take responsibility for knowing our own jobs and being able to formulate a simple request for information from someone working in a different office. As it turns out, that’s more than I can reasonably expect.

Editorial Note: This is part of a continuing series of previously unattributed posts appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.