Hiding Like a Clam or the Joy of Mediocrity


I read this piece in FastCompany yesterday about the worst-performing employees who are usually ‘happy as clams’, and it calls to mind the use of agency tools/technology/software to manage work.

One of the huge benefits of these tools is the ability to see all the work that has been assigned; and some tools provide deeper information on resource/capacity planning. So in an instant, you can review how busy everyone is – what they’re working on, how many hours they’re allocated by the day/week/month, vacations, etc.

Handy stuff. And in my experience, imperative for truly managing resources.

The flip-side – and I’ve experienced this too – is that employees can feel we’re watching or controlling them. Oh, please.

True. And not true. I am not Big Brother, and I’m certainly not your Mother. But I am here to make sure stuff gets done on time. That also means staying on budget as well as meeting the criteria of the brief.

What using these tools diligently will reveal is one of perception versus reality. Some people appear really busy, and don’t turn out a heck of a lot of work. Others just plow through one project after another.

And most of the time you cannot tell one from the other. Therefore you set expectations, and then you review the results.

As the article states:
"Mediocre performers can do a really good job of hiding under the surface. Most are experts at busywork, which they bury themselves in to appear busy.”

This isn’t spying, but rather getting a clear idea where every client (or agency) dollar is going.

And these tools reveal a world of other things as well. Is everyone an ace in Photoshop, Illustrator or html? Some are better (and faster) than others. There can be hardware or software issues that can bring even that ace to a grinding halt. Maybe they’re disorganized, or simply screwing around too much.

When time estimates (therefore budgets) are consistently blown, you need to investigate further. As a manager, it is your job to find out what’s going on – or your part of the problem. (More on that later…)

If you have a well-trained staff, have super hardware and software and some still can’t cut it, then it’s time to have a chat.

It could be something as simple as too many distractions – or perhaps they just don’t want to work all that hard and this is an easy paycheck. The clams. The ultimate in mediocrity.

Get organized, get on top of your projects and let the clams drift to a tide pool elsewhere.