When we could shout across the room

Opposing Views

Image by Jaimito Cartero via Flickr

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about management.  I take refuge in thinking about it theoretically, as an academic problem to be solved, and wouldn’t it be nice if all the people involved would just behave. I am fully aware that theoretically is not how this works, but I use the word “refuge” in good conscience.  I’m in a position of learning as I go, and trying things out until I find a style that works for both me and the people I manage. Yes, this method does drive everyone a little crazy – I’m not exactly set in my ways, in a practical sense.

Five years ago next week, I started working at my current company.  We all fit into one big room plus three descent offices, with all our inventory and break room amenities, and I’ve been feeling nostalgia for the days when I could hold everything that needed to be done in my realm of influence in my brain.

Today I attended a workshop designed (and designed well) to teach me how to manage people, with all the infrastructure that entails (feedback, planning ahead, clear expectations, consistency), and had an abrupt realization that that infrastructure is necessary because we’re not all living out of each others’ pockets anymore. I’d had the realization before, but something about having to write emails to myself in order to make sure I remembered what I’ve said to whom on a regular basis drove it home.  Because I will have to write those emails, or I’m going to end up pulling the ground out from under someone’s project without meaning to, simply because I don’t remember what priority it had relative to the rest of the department last week before that import issue cropped up – and I hate it when people do that to me.

I miss the small business environment, where I could be elbow deep in everything without pissing anyone off or breaking anything. Now I get to look at all the pretty spinning wheels of commerce, but I’m only allowed to touch and muck with the ones in my assigned section (and you’d better believe I muck with them). And I could do so much more damage by touching the wrong thing at the wrong time than I could before, simply because we move like a Destroyer now, rather than a speedboat.

A lot of this is just me whining.  What I really want is a data port, because if I haven’t figured out how to learn things fast enough to keep up by now, I never will.


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