Monday, November 17, 2008

The Great Farce Part I

About 2 years ago there was a major change at my lovely place of employment -- out went the Old Director (OD) and in came the new. The new fellow was much vaunted, real tech-savvy, vocal and strong. New Director (ND) had actually helped develop a piece of software that we consumed heavily and this implied that ND was relevant and valuable. OD was swell but perhaps ill-suited for the prominent Director position as he was burdened with a modicum of introversion. The daily trade was plied in the confines of his office and rarely did he speak, if at all, to the common folk that produced many of the real, tangible items that were consumed by the facility. Nevertheless, OD was both well-respected and well-liked. He allowed only a close coterie of esteemed folks - the upper echelon - to influence and provide council. But at the time, occupying a lower caste, I had to be content lapping at the meager drip of information which fell in my pan.
Then, one day, without warning, word spread that OD was to retire from his storied post. Since OD rarely communicated anything to the larger group, the advertisement for the ND was discovered in a vocationally relevant circular. Change was in the wind and would arrive in the Spring.
About a month or so before the arrival, there were a series of secret meetings amongst the mid and upper-level managers. It was crucial to strategize earlier rather than later. Would the pecking order be preserved, could new territory be up for grab? Old allegiences were strengthened and enemies were kept close. There would be alignment with the new power at all costs. Every ounce of data obtained about ND was parsed for clues and suggestions from the most heralded dissertation to the meagerest plea for help on a mailing list. And yours truly? I was cynical yet optimistic. I was hoping for my chance; a meritocracy.
Enter Spring. It was buzzing that a wholly new organizational chart had been devised. There was an endless queue of covert meetings between ND and the mid/upper level managers. Decisions were being made and, as far as I knew, the common folk that produced real things, such as myself, were never consulted. It was leaked that, at the behest of ND, a quasi-famous Industrial Psychologist (IP) had been hired to analyze the staff, make assessments, and present reportage and council to ND. It was at this point that I become uneasy and warn't too shy about it, neither.
IP had authored some books and wrote vignettes for public radio. IP was disarming enough, as I suspected would be the case. Each staff member was allotted one hour of couch time. Some folks strode in there thinking this was their big opportunity to be an instrument of change, some were paranoid and promised to present to IP an inpenetrable shell, and one particular clown read up on industrial psychology ahead of time, picked up a bit of argot, and sought to turn the tables. I wasn't interested in any of that. I resolved to be forthright and helpful but I wasn't in the mind to put my cards on the table, so to speak. I was more interested in listening to the type of language employed by IP and keen to identify the triggers that implored me to lower my guard and spill forth -- knowledge of those triggers and techniques could be useful.
Upon completion of all the interviews, IP anonymized and categorized the data into a series of talking points and presented it to the staff during a lively 2 hour group meeting. Common issues and concerns were bulletted and reviewed. I list some specimens that will become relevant later on here:
1. People's roles and responsibilties are either ill-defined and nebulous so as to mean nothing or they are too specific and thus constrictive.
2. People want a more transparent organization, one where decisions and logic are communicated and where input is encouraged and well-regarded.
3. People want the opportunity to become more involved, redefine their roles, and grow professionally.

To be continued...

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