Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Plan B

So, as you can probably guess from the dearth of posts here, I've been a but busy for blogging. I'm still a bit busy for blogging, but I reckoned I should really give y'all a heads-up for something. If you live in the Glasgow area and are a comics fan, you'll have heard of Plan B Books, Glasgow's new graphic novel shop, yes? Well, as you'll see, if you click through the link, on this Saturday I'll be hanging out there along with Gary Gibson and Richard Morgan, to blether and sign books for anyone as wants to drop by. The basic details?

Saturday 26th February, 1-4 pm
Plan B Books
5 Osborn Street

(Ye know that wee road that comes off King Street opposite the 13th Note? Yeah, there. I believe it's somewhere about the bend where it nearly joins to Saltmarket, but instead swings round and becomes Parnie Street. But let's face it, it can't be hard to find.)

It's free and un-ticketed, but seats are limited so ye probably want to get there sharpish if ye want to park yer arse.

Anyways, see yez there if ye can make it. And while I'm being a laggardly blogger, here's the princely Stephen Fry to fill in for me with a few choice words about pedants. Just because this is full of not just win, I say, but veritable triumph.



Blogger Kate on the couch said...

I have to disagree with Fry's defence of 'actioning.' I don't mind that it's a noun becoming a verb, what I mind is that facilitates laziness. When I'm asked to 'action' something it tends to be because the asker hasn't bothered themselves to think of what particular action he or she would actually like me to take.

6:42 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I'd have no problem with that though. Hell, actually, I see that sort of "laziness" as good practice.

I mean, far as I'm concerned, there are (roughly speaking) four levels of decision-making in any system: procedural; strategic; tactical; operational. Assuming we're not talking a rigidly over-defined business model in which *everything* ends up procedurally prescribed (fast food industry, say?) the whole point of having tiers in a business system is to have people at each level making the decisions that need to be made *at that level*.

Really, if your job is to make decisions at any level above the operational, you should be keeping your grubby little mittens out of the decision-making that takes place at the level below. If you're at a tactical level -- e.g. a manager -- you've given your staff responsibility for what goes on at the operational level, so you need to give them the autonomy that goes with it. Otherwise it's micro-management -- which was always my #1 hackle-raiser in work, not just because it's a vague sort of mistreatment but because of a very specific abuse it manifests: despite the fact that the boss is disempowering their staff at every turn, the staff is held responsible for the end results of that boss's decisions. Fuck that shit.

To me then, if the boss at one level wants something done, telling their staff to action it isn't lazy, just affording autonomy to them to make it happen the best way they see fit. I would much rather work for that boss. Hell, I *did*.

In my old days as a ground-level admin assistant for a training company, I was lucky to work for a boss who understood that letting me do my job meant operational autonomy. Actually, it ended up being *tactical* autonomy as the office had an unused 486 sitting in the corner while the main admin, bless her, was still using an old green screen monster and trying to keep track of trainees with paper systems that had long since become untenable.

Given the basic task of getting the weekly "figures" to the office manager, (with no concern on the boss's part as to how I did it,) I fired up the 486, found MS Works, and set up some replacements for the paper systems -- spreadsheets first then a basic database. Pushing for us to get MS Office as a tactical decision, I ended up developing a full relational database in Access from which I could pull those weekly "figures" before the hat was even off the head let alone dropped. (I kinda took Radar O'Reilly as my role model when I worked in admin.)

By contrast, the bosses my boss was dealing with were micro-managing her to fuck. Part of the reason the new systems were required was that they wanted those weekly "figures" broken down by ever-changing criteria, with projections made to a degree of detail where they became meaningless. While I could supply the raw data of trainee progress to inform my boss's discussions with trainers, so she could make a broad judgement of how things were looking, they were taking that function out of her hands and forcing us to submit forecasts that were tantamount to fortune-telling. The strategic decision-makers were making decisions at a tactical level and fucking things up by doing so.

Had they looked at a weekly projection of revenue for the next month, quarter, etc. as simply something for her to "action," she would've been able to *do* that, I'm sure. By going crazy town on her they not only made that task impossible -- because at that higher level they were so divorced from the situation they didn't get when breaking down projections certain ways led to elisions and duplications; they also ate up time required for other tasks. Result: SNAFU.

So I'd actually celebrate a term that communicates "I need you to do this but I'm not concerned with the specifics of how you get it done." I think that's how it should be for the most part.

8:52 pm  

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