We civilize kids by teaching them to manage their emotions, their behavior, their time, and, eventually, people around them.
A kid who can’t even learn to manage themselves will be a liability in life. Nothing they do will produce much good.
A kid who learns to manage themselves might learn to manage other things: their parents, siblings, and friends. They might learn to manage other people, and depending on their management span, they can do things that put a dent in the world. For good or ill. Hopefully good.
In the natural world, things happen more or less automatically. In the human world, the things that matter appear when self-managed individuals or well-managed organizations produce them.
I want to become more productive.
So I need not just a better production system—on which I’ve made some progress—but also a better management system.
My next step toward better personal production is better self-management.
The state of Mike’s Management
I’ve written nearly 2,000 words over the past few days trying to understand what’s been going on and what I need to do. I’ve taken ideas from Past Me, W. Edwards Deming, Chris Argyris, Alexy Guzey, Bobbi Wolf, Daniel Wolf, and others.
The most interesting part of this exercise was a conversation between “me as manager” and “me as worker” using “Active Imagination,” which I learned from Bobbi. Maybe I’ll post the narrative. Maybe not.
Here’s the bottom line:
We (“me as manager,” “me as worker,” and “me as facilitator of the conversation”) learned some things.
The prior situation: I’d make plans. Stuff would happen. Sometimes it would be consistent with the plan’s general direction, but it would not what had been planned. Sometimes it would have nothing to do with what had been planned. But what got done rarely was what had been planned.
I sort of knew that.
I thought of that as the problem that I had been trying to solve.
What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the problem—it was the system.
As manager and worker, I was doing things that kept the system in place.
As manager, I kept the system in place by doing the same things: making plans, observing they were not being carried out, and doing nothing about that, other than complaining, and resolving to do better.
As worker, I kept the system in place by ignoring the plans and noticing that nothing was being done when I ignored the plans. So clearly, ignoring plans was acceptable behavior.
“I as manager” and “I as worker” pretended we had a functional—if imperfect—relationship and ignoring the fact that our relationship was dysfunctional one.
We maintained the pretense by not discussing our relationship and not acknowledging that we were not discussing it. (This from Chris Argyris.)
Things changed when that discussion took place as part of the writing that led to this post.
“I as manager” admitted that “I” expected that “I as worker” would not follow plans that “I” made. But “I” kept making those plans anyway. Why? Because sometimes, some parts of a plan would be followed. And because at least some useful work was getting done. But mostly because making plans was my job—and I did that. Getting the plan followed was not—and I didn’t do that.
“I as worker” admitted that “I” did not follow plans because there seemed to be no good reason to do so. It was evident that “I” was not expected not to follow plans, so by continuing not to follow plans, “I” was meeting expectations.
While “I as worker” could see that “I as manager” was annoyed that plans were not being followed, “I” normalized that behavior. “That’s what managers do,” “I” might have said. “They make plans. They observe them not being followed. They say nothing. And they complain. It seems weird, but if they wanted their plans followed, they’d say something.”
“I as manager” acknowledged that by not saying anything that I was tacitly accepting that behavior.
So the new system of management is:
“I as manager” will make plans and make sure that “I as worker” agrees to them.
“I as worker” will raise any objections to a plan, and work with “I as manager” to come up with something acceptable.
As manager and as worker, we expect that plans will be carried out.
If they are not, then we will stop and discuss whatever needs to be discussed to more closely approach the ideal.
Good (self and non-self) management guidelines
A good manager does not expect that its plans will be ignored—but expects (with a probability that’s adjusted over time) that they might be.
A good manager inspects periodically to see if proper action is being taken on a new plan.
Initially, a good manager checks frequently and adjusts the frequency as it’s clear that plans are being followed without undue delay.
A good manager continues to inspect—and look for places to improve both planning and execution.
A good worker considers a new plan and, if it seems problematic, raises issues, and if not, goes to work on it.
If there’s a gap between action and expectation, a good manager will initiate the difficult conversation that it will take fo find the reason for the gap, and close the gap.
The process continues until there are no gaps and disconnections between intention, planning, and action.
“Today’s plan is to post this and save the ‘thinking on paper’ that it took to did to get here. We can use that for other posts, maybe,” “I as manager,” said.
“Sounds like a good plan,” “I as worker,” said.
“Don’t forget to tell Daniel,” we said simultaneously.
“Jinx!” We said.
Click here to subscribe to 70 Years Old. WTF! by Email