The incredible shrinking staff…

For most of the last four years my little corner of the bureaucracy has held fairly steady at a total of eight people. Sure that’s a couple short of a full load, but close enough that the job got done without too much trouble. A year ago, one of our host moved on to other opportunities and we were down to seven. A few months ago another chose to go test the waters elsewhere and we were down to six. After that, keeping up got harder. Today, we assembled for the farewell lunch for the next to go out the door and by the end of the week our number will dwindle to five. Life will be harder yet when that work gets farmed out, but I’d be the last guy to condemn anyone for doing what’s in their best interest.

Only a fool would believe that we’ll hold at five for very long before the next departure and the next and the next. There’s a upward limit of doing more with less. There’s an equally fixed limit on even being able to to the same amount with less. Eventually you simply reach a tipping point where you accept less or you apply more resources to bring the scales back into some semblance of balance. At least that’s the way we learned it at my fancy online business school.

Now the discussion focuses on who’s covering what, who’s going to be out when, of needing to look closley scheduled leave, and how many balls we can collectively keep in the air at one time. Those are hard discussions and even harder decisions, but they’re decisions I have the advantage of not needing to make. Giving up my supervisor’s hat strikes me as a better and better decision every single day. I’m just a poor simple working drone, the part of the equation where the “equal and opposite reaction” takes place.

For me that means it’s time to start making my own hard decisions about what the future holds, what I’m willing to accept as a matter of course, and what I’m willing to push back against. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s probably well past time to start filling the options box back up. I can’t help but think that I’ve seen this movie before. I’d just hoped it would be a little longer before I got to see the replay.

Those days…

Today was another one of those days. You know, the kind you spend dashing from Very Important Thing to Very Important Thing without ever slowing down to do any kind of analysis about what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Those days are becoming more and more common lately. My read of the future is that they’ll probably become the norm rather than the exception and that it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

I’m not saying I want to be one of those occasional government employees I ran across in DC who unfolded the Post when they got in and proceeded to spend the day reading it from cover to cover, but it would be nice to be able to do more than race from one meeting to the next until they all start bleeding together into one great endless timesuck. I’m a little envious of the people who seem to be able to sit through meetings and digest all the information on the fly, compiling it into some intra-cranial database with perfect recall of how it fits in with all the other information from all the other meetings they’ve sat in. My brain, of course, doesn’t work like that. I process information best when I have time to think on it, write things out, and then aggregate it into a comprehensive whole. That’s why given the choice I’d be better served sticking with PowerPoints and information papers and distilling big ideas down into their essential elements. Needing to do it on the wing quite literally makes my head hurt.

Based on the way the last couple of weeks have gone, I’m projecting the need to lay on a bulk supply of aspirin. As “those days” become the new normal, I’m going to need them. There are a number of management philosophies that apply here – some say do more with less, some say do less with less, the one that seems to be in play at the moment is “do more and quit your bitching.”

Rest assured as long as I have a blog and an internet connection they may be able to make me do more, but I will never, ever quit my bitching.