People have a certain way of asking things that isn’t so much about getting permission as it is about telegraphing what they plan on doing. The thoughts of the person being asked are entirely secondary, because even when the answer is no, they assume that the answer is really yes, because that’s the answer they want to hear.
Most people are polite. They’ll let themselves be bullied into doing something that they don’t want or aren’t able to do just to avoid offending the person asking the question. I’m as guilty of going along to get along as anyone else. Sometimes putting up a fight just isn’t worth it.
On the other hand, sometimes the fight is that important. In those cases, I believe in standing my ground. I won’t be bullied, guilted, or otherwise manipulated into giving the wrong answer just because that’s the one someone wants or thinks that they somehow are entitled to hear.
There’s a long and wide stubborn streak running through my family and I’m willing to put up my share of that streak against all comers.
We’ve entered a particularly dangerous part of the year… the point where the volume of information flowing towards me surpasses the available time in which to process it. Forget about trying to do any reasonable analysis, synchronizing or integrating data, or otherwise trying to build a comprehensive framework for whatever is happening.
For the next seven business days I’m operating purely on the the input – reaction model. It’s triage, which incidentally isn’t a great way to function over any sustained duration, but isn’t awful in the short term… as long as you don’t particularly mind that while you’re making decisions based on short term convenience, there may be no one assessing the longer-term impact of those decisions.
In fact, some would probably tell you longly and loudly that I am, in fact, not a “decision maker.” Technically that’s absolutely correct. My function in life is to provide information to the deciders and then carry out the decision as best I can. The reality, of course, is that there’s not always a decider around when you need one…. and even when they are around the time it takes to get them to make the actual decision is so long that 57 other decision points have piled up waiting for someone to do something with them.
Sometimes permission is a luxury the ticking clock just doesn’t accommodate. Fortunately I’m 100% comfortable begging for forgiveness as needed.
We’ve reached the fun part of the “planning” process that I fondly like to think of as the day I stop doing any critical analysis of requirements and just start reacting to inputs based on a vast reserve of institutional knowledge, gut feelings, and guesswork. It means being a decision maker when you have no formal authority but a metric shit ton of implied responsibility. It means hanging your ass way out in the wind in hopes that someone from echelons higher than reality doesn’t notice what you’re up to and ends up chewing it off.
It’s a state of affairs that I can only assure them that I don’t like any better than they do… but one that is absolutely necessary in a universe where getting an official decision could take a week when you need it made in minutes.
In the absence of permission, I’ll just be over here mentally preparing myself to beg forgiveness. I’ve reached, it seems, the point where I literally can’t even.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I don’t know exactly if that’s because things have gotten less stupid or I’m simply becoming use to the same level of stupid as before. Regardless, there are still a few moments when all I can do is sit back and shake my head.
As it turns out, I’ve been a bad, bad boy. I’ve been talking to people in other offices without the express, written permission of their supervisor. That, apparently, constitutes a gross violation of civil conduct and is an affront to the gods themselves. After half a career, you’d think I would remember that trying to get information directly from the source will do nothing but get you into trouble.
Instead of asking Person A directly for the information I need, the Official Process demands that I ask Person B, who will direct Person C to oversee the request for information and, who will thusly inform Person A that a request for information has been made. The information requested can then be transmitted back to me by the same circuitous route. Instead of taking 15 minutes, the process will take three days, involve, a minimum of two extra people, and has garnered three angry emails reminding me that “it’s not ok to talk to people from other offices without permission.” We could have saved an inordinate amount of time by any one of those three people simply answering the question rather than engaging in some half assed turf war, but there you have it, your bureaucracy in action… or is that your bureaucracy inaction?
So yes, please consider me sufficiently chastised for cheekily disregarding the standard routing of requests for information in an effort to actually get something done in a timely manner. Rest assured when it comes time to toss someone under the bus for delaying the project, I’ll have no qualms at all about reminding the Powers That Be who has been jamming their sabots into the machinery.
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.