Forgetting Who You Work For

Did you ever work for technology? Chances are you have and may not have noticed it. Another question I could ask is, have you ever worked for the process and forgotten who you work for?

A few years ago, we were told by our customers that we were not meeting their expectations. This threw IS management into a tizzy. How could this be? We work so hard, and we strive to satisfy your every need? Where have we failed you?

The wringing of hands and mea culpa’s went on and on, but as always this resulted in nothing, so management did what management always does when faced with truths. They held high level meetings.

They should have gotten high before the meetings. Just kidding. High level meetings are useless unless there are many low-level meetings where you ask all-important questions like, “Why do you hate us?”

Eventually you find people who will tell you the truth, but not before you go through a very many people who, like most of us, don’t. We say things like, “Well, you folks try, and that is important.” That same person gutted your work in a survey, and that is the reason you stand before them, wringing your hands, and with each faux pat on the head, you hands wring a bit less.

So when you do run into someone who does not mind telling you that you suck at what you do, that person becomes an outlier. In management’s head, the linear regression is clear. There are only a few bad apples that hate us. To the rest of them, we are okay.

But given the poor rating, you have to discover some thing that you did wrong, even though at this point you don’t believe in your heart of managerial hearts that you did anything wrong. You have to find a sin for which you will do penance, without really admitting to yourself that you sinned at all.

By some real stretches of the imagination, you dig deep into your MBA and find a phrase that both exonerates you and is worthy of penance that only a good manager could be found guilty of. We did not align ourselves with our customers.

What the hell does that mean? It is both a compliment, you were working hard, and a criticism, you weren’t working on the right things. It is also a cop-out. You never found out what you were doing wrong, so you invented something.

In our case, the answer resulted in an enormous amount of hard work, We spent months on aligning. We hired ITIL experts who told us how we needed to define ourselves, what we do, and how to measure how great we are.

Let that sink in. We did not ever look for the truth. We looked for better metrics on how good we were doing. We aligned with nothing.

Mandatory Meetings

image of a large meeting

Large meetings are more like lectures, and less like communication.

The surest sign that you are not meeting the needs of your employees is the requirement that meetings be mandatory. Standing meetings that are required by leaders are an admission of failure. You have not connected with your personnel. Nothing you say has any relevance to them.

It’s not communication

More than a few leaders believe that lack of communication makes employees feel out of the loop. They are right. Employees that are disconnected don’t believe that management is capable of listening to their ideas. Lots of employee surveys ask about communication because this is a sore spot for most organizations. One of the reasons employee satisfaction scores are low is because of communication issues. Management often makes the mistake of believing that quarterly meetings are the answer to this problem. They are not, for one good reason. Meetings like this are lectures. They have little to do with communication. Communication is a two-way street.

You don’t have anything valuable to say

The last mandatory meeting I attended was painfully long, ninety minutes to be exact. The body language in the room made it clear to any person who was watching that about 45 minutes in, a lot of people were squirming. The reason why college lectures are usually kept to an hour is that we are not capable of staying focused on a subject we are interested in for much longer than an hour.

If the subject is irrelevant, or just uninteresting, that number falls quickly. I was sitting in the back, and the number of people checking their emails on cell phones was about 40% at any time. Presenting is a very complex task. You need to read your audience and explain your subject at the same time. There were at least two talks in this meeting in which the presenter did neither.

You don’t say anything they want to hear

This particular meeting had about 80 attendees, and they were mostly forced to attend. How do I know that? The same way the presenters should have immediately known. There were no questions. There were so few questions, the meeting actually ended early, thank heaven. The final presentation contained what every presentation should not have. A video un-related to the talks. It was supposed to be funny, but after an hour-plus in an uncomfortable chair in a hot auditorium, it seemed to go on forever.

Too long, and nothing to say

Why are meetings mandatory? Because management does not understand that communication cannot be forced. Because the presentations have no relevance to the audience, and the meetings are tiresome. It says something about your employees if they would rather continue to work on their tasks than sit in an auditorium and accomplish nothing. Perhaps you should listen more and talk less.