With seven days to run before I’m expected to have pulled a rabbit out of my 4th point of contact, I really just have one simple request – one thing in all the world that would make my days more manageable. I know that the Gods on Olympus aren’t actually working against me, but what I need more than anything right now is for them to stop being for me. They need to stop trying to “help” me.
I have officially reached my limit with “help” coming in over the top. While I’m sure it’s good intentioned and (probably) not meant to sabotage a precariously balanced cross-organizational effort, every change order at this point makes every single thing left to do miles more difficult than it needs to me. They’re letting their vision of perfect get in the way of actually getting the job done.
At this point I’m ready to declare anyone who is even momentarily visited by the good idea fairy an insider threat and possibly a domestic terrorist. There’s got to be some kind of watch list I can get these people on, right?
1. The help. OK, so here’s the thing… There’s a point in the life of a project when it is no longer a good idea to throw additional bodies at the problem. Two or three months ago, when I started asking for specific assistance was the time to allocate resources. Ten days before the light turns green and this things has to work is not the time to offer up “whatever help you need.” In fact adding new people at this point is pretty much only going to slow things down and make everything harder to do. We have long since crossed the line of departure after which I will either be able to manhandle this shitshow across the finish line myself or it will collapse in a catastrophic and spectacularly public manner. There really is no third option now.
2. The National Capital Region. Loosely defined for my purposes as the District and the counties of Maryland and Virginia abutting the federal enclave, the area usually makes my list because of their abysmal ability to deal with even the most well forecast snowfall. This week they make the list because those feds operating in and around the NCR have gotten themselves a “free” day off tomorrow. I get the logic of not wanting a few hundred thousand workers coming into the city when a million or so people are swamping the place for the inauguration, but I want a day off too damnit. Back to back three-day weekends would have been perfect.
3. Due dates. Here in the land of making things more difficult than they need to be, we call due dates “suspenses.” These suspenses are what tells us how long we have to work on various action items. The idea is simple enough. The problem is the near universal belief that it’s wrong and immoral to send anything out “before its suspense.” The very idea seems asinine to me. My intent, every single day, is to get things off my desk and on to someone els’s as quickly as quality allows. Hanging on to stuff just because it isn’t due yet has got to be one of the most patently ridiculous things that happens on a regular basis… Which is really saying something because we are full to the rafters with people doing absolutely ridiculous things.
1. Failure to follow directions. Don’t ignore the very clear directions I provide and then try to raise hell and cry the blues when everything goes to hell in a handbag. I will not hesitate to refer you back to the previously ignored instructions and remind you that I told you so.
2. Bright Ideas. No. You didn’t just have one. Almost no one has legitimate bright ideas. What you most likely had was a bad idea masquerading as a bright idea. The two are very much not synonymous. If what you’re thinking about hasn’t been done anywhere, by anyone before, there’s probably a reason for that. Just let it be.
3. “Helpful” salespeople. I know the sales people are just trying to be helpful (and boost their commission), but when I show up at a shop asking for something specific, I’m not really interested in something similar but more expensive. I’m actually interested in the thing I’m asking about. I know some people wander in not having a clue in the world what they’re looking for, but rest assured I am not one of those. Although I appreciate your pluck and determination, what I really need you to do is bugger off.
Look lady, I get it. I’m new and that’s probably as much of a pain in the ass for you as it is for me. Sorry that I haven’t been here for 38 1/2 years, but there are things that you know that I need to know. I’m going to occasionally ask you a question about who to talk to or what something does. What I’m going to need you to do is not answer every question by rolling your eyes and making a giant production out of bringing me up to speed.
You see, some day, you are going to drop dead and someone, most likely me, is going to have to figure out what you have been up to and it’s going to be easier to do that if you’re just up front with me from the outset. Otherwise, once you’re gone I’ll have to go through your files, not find what I’m looking for, and then make my bones by telling everyone how jacked up all your stuff is. So, you see, cooperating with me now really saves us both a lot of trouble.
Oh, and one more thing… There’s a pretty good chance that I’m not going to do things the exact same way you do them. Different is ok as long as we get to the same answer. Despite your best efforts to convince me that things only work when your desk is piled high with paper copies of everything you’re working on or have worked on in the past six months, I’m ok keeping my desk clear and my files electronic. I promise when I need a hardcopy of something I’ll be able to find a printer all by myself.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.