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. 

managing projects is like being a custodian...sometimes

Remember Carl the custodian in The Breakfast Club? He was the sage who knew everything about everyone.  There were no secrets. Always there to clean up the debris of the day. He went through everyone’s lockers.

A project manager, traffic manager, producer is important. We keep everyone’s work moving along. We have to know where everything is – all the time. Beside being a custodian, it’s also like being Mom. “WHERE ARE MY (insert item you can’t find but Mom miraculously knows exactly where it is)?” If you were organized this wouldn't be an issue.

Well, we’re all adults, right? Most of the time as project managers, we have all the answers. We know where we stand on the progress, budget, alignment with the brief – always on top of everything. Because we're constantly bugging you for updates.

But when you’re not around to provide an update, produce the item that was due an hour ago, or a change has just screamed into agency and must-be-done-now – we have to rifle through your desk, files, whatever.

Personally, I feel that your desk, your file system on the hard drive of your computer is your personal space. However, it becomes mine when I have to know what the status of a project is – NOW.  I hate going through someone else’s stuff. It’s a violation of space and makes me feel weird. But I’ll do it.

So, like a custodian, or a Mom, we find what we need and get to see what a disaster your personal space is. Compelled to clean it up for you, we do not. It is your job. We get what we need and leave a sticky-note on your monitor as to what had transpired.

Therefore, if your agency or marketing department has a centralized system for managing projects, updating information, communicating updates – USE IT. If you don’t have a central system – or if you feel that email is the end-all to organization, I recommend you do a Google search and find tools that bring everyone into the loop. Need help? Let me know.

Email is not a project management tool. It is not a database and requires a lot of sorting, searching and filing. Your IT department will love you for cutting back on the clutter and resources needed for bloated inboxes and terabytes of storage.

A little guidance from your Mom…Centralize your information. Provide updates as you move along. And clean up your files because one day, someone will need something and have to search through your debris.

It will all come down to you – whether you’re at your desk or at Starbuck’s. And by the way, let your colleagues know when you’ve stepped out for a sec. If we know you’ll be right back I won’t have to look in your locker.