Friday, December 17, 2010

The Fine Line of Clipboardery

I have written at length about my unceasing love for my clipboard. Seriously, I can't say that enough. She is the reason I can do what I do. Without her, I know I would be frenetic, and drop many many balls.

But there's a dark side to clipboardery. A dark side that another new clipboard in my life exemplifies. 

The person who maintains the list has a certain power. If you have a positive, loving relationship with the person who maintains the list, then the act of listmaking is a mutually beneficial and helpful exercise. You give them the ownership of the list so as to derive benefit from their amazing organizational skills, wonderful mediation and triage skills and great timelines. They respect your role in achieving the goals, and you respect their role in ensuring things are done properly.

The reason my relationship with the good clipboard works is the foundation of mutual respect. We both know we need each other.

This new clipboard... we'll designate a letter - Q - to refer to this clipboard - doesn't demonstrate that respect. Q believes that by virtue of owning the list, they determine, audit and manage the activity. I get schooled on the purpose of the list.  Q will help me understand what I need to do, and what my dependencies are. Q will coordinate my sorry ass to make sure things are done right.

Q has no idea what's involved in my job - and fundamentally behaves as though it is trivial. Q thinks I have no reason to coordinate the activities in my world as separate from this Master Q list. Q schools me on the value of having concrete tangible goals. Q treats me like an infant.

The truth is, Q has a functional role. There is a coordination task that needs doing - and it would be good to have someone doing it. But, there's a difference between facilitating complex interaction and dependency planning - and being the self-proclaimed general manager/operational manager. The difference is subtle - it's one of control.

A good clipboard understands the natural tension between dictating schedules and actually having the power to tell people what to do. Q uses the clipboard as a way to gain the power of managing people. But implicitly - not explicitly.

So Q doesn't understand why I don't want to support the effort. Why I don't want to contribute my goals. Or my to-do list. Or arm the clipboard with information - which will be used as control. As metrics of my success. As commitments to the leadership.

A good clipboard is a lifeline. A bad clipboard is a megalomaniac.

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