Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Getting neat or getting organized?

Over two decades ago, I knew of a plant manager who wanted to instill the virtue of neatness in his employees. Every morning before 8, he'd tour the office areas, looking for desks that weren't clean. Pity the poor person (engineer, usually) whose desk was found to contain stacks of paper; that person would be "written up."

One morning, he wrote up an engineer who had arrived even earlier to work on an important project and who had stepped away from his desk to work in the lab for a bit. That story made the rounds quickly. It didn't help morale to think that people with extra initiative were getting written up for having taken work out of their desk drawers before the traditional starting time for work.

Yesterday, I saw a description of an impressive, paper-based Kanban approach to work. I bookmarked the full description on Edward Tufte's site (scroll down a quarter of the page), intending to review it today.

When I went there today, I first saw Tufte's reference to Malcolm Gladwell's The Social Life of Paper. That reminded me of Bob Pease's approach to filing, of what I've called my occasional "archaeological" approach to filing, especially when I was an engineer ("If I did it last week, it must be about 2 inches down from the top of the pile"), and of the importance of being organized for effective work, not looking organized for others.

The moral of the story? If you're a manager with a strong passion for neatness, be neat yourself, but strongly consider encouraging your people to be effective, not neat, unless neatness happens to correspond to effectiveness for them, too. Perhaps a bit of action learning on their part can help them learn what helps them be effective. Perhaps it can help you learn what makes you more effective, too.



Blogger X said...

Thought you might like to know about Top Blogs, a ranked list of blogs. You get a button to put on your blog, and people vote for you by clicking the button. The more votes you get, the higher you are on the list and usually the more new readers you get.

31 May, 2005 08:20  

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