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Monday, September 9, 2013

Supporting Cast

Some of the feedback from readers of Knowledge Work was, How did I get time to get out of the office, away from the office?

I realized I have some strong feelings about where work happens, including a 15 year old screen saver that floats You Don’t Make Any Money In Your Own Office across my computer screen any time I lose focus.

A great deal of my success comes from knowing and cultivating experts. I observe that some people cultivate experts, some don’t, and the ones that do are generally more successful, able to succeed in a wider range of situations. The rest of success comes from luck and personally doing a lot of high quality work.

I am strongly organized to make maximum use of outsiders, and still do my own work.

Typically, I organize my day to be with the people who can show me what I need. That generally means being out of the office when other people are available to be seen. Yup, face-to-face.

But we’ve got all this technology! Ever see a flame war on social media or email? Somebody not paying attention during a conference call, OK EVERYBODY not paying attention on a conference call?

I remember one time I was selling enterprise videoconferencing, so of course management wanted communication by videoconferencing. What a saving! What efficiency!

Our team was in our conference room proposing an unbeatable offer on a multi-million dollar offering. Suddenly the “identified buyer” looked out of the picture, to the side, then looked back at us and said, “I’ll have to call you back.” Shut ’er down.

Perhaps we don’t always pick up the true situation with some of these electronic tools.

So in addition to getting out, I find I am doing work when others are not available. That speeds up my progress. I’ll usually have assignments in before opening of business...because I have other places to be.

One time I was working in an office, smoke coming off the keys. A lonely peer asks, “Can I interrupt you for a minute?”

That’s two,” I replied.

I use 7 to 9 am to harvest a fairly extensive roster of incoming communication. This morning, one of my advisers said I was unusually disciplined sharing incoming communication with others who could use it. That’s a major part of cultivating a network of experts.

I’ve had to watch subordinates. I guess my bosses thought they might steal the silverware. How do I know you’re working if I can’t see you?

I’ve come to believe that I should spend my time with subordinates making sure we share a common understanding of what they are doing, and how to judge acceptable finished work.

Then get out of the way.

When I get a subordinate doing mostly excellent work, my next level is to turn that work into something more important and fulfilling for them, often by introducing them to an appropriate expert. FIELD TRIP!

I spend my time on subordinates who don’t bring a personal commitment to excellence recruiting their successors. I don’t create somebody else’s excellence. That’s like pushing rope.

Funny thing though, excellent subordinates and I find workload starts taking less and less of the day. That’s a corollary of Parkinson’s Law - Work expands to fill the time available. Leaving time for improving our situation, like The Swamp on M.A.S.H.

How are you getting more out of our information economy?

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