Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Mighty Clipboardery

Clipboardery is a funny thing. At some level, everyone has a list - from a shopping list to a chore list - and so all of us are clipboards. Those of us who don't make any lists are best described as "disorganized." However, inside corporations, there are levels of clipboardery.

Level 1: Intro to Clipboard
- this person is truly the proverbial paper pusher. All requests must be timestamped. All requests must have an end date. All requests will take a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 4 weeks. Please complete this form in triplicate. If you don't believe these people exist in our digital helpdesk world, you're dead wrong. Look harder. Look deeper. They are in there.

Level 2: My List
. As an actual individual contributor, you often need to keep track of your work in a list. Prioritize it, track it, report on it. This is your own work - not managing some queue for some process. As a manager, it is frustrating when a person cannot manage their own pipeline - and sometimes aggravating to see HOW they manage it. But, as long as it works for them, I say, God Bless.

Level 3: My Team's List.  As a Manager, you're managing input and output for your whole team, handling load balancing, setting expectations. You need a good idea - but not a great idea - of the pipeline and the capacity. You don't need the details, necessarily. As a manager, unlike a Level 1 clipboard, you also have the authority behind your clipboard to move things around, escalate items, and so on.

Level 4: Cross-Functional Team Clipboard.
This is the classic project management clipboard job. All the purview, and no hammer. I recall as a young sprout that my colleagues at an unnamed financial services company were masters at this. They kept tidy lists in filofaxes and badgered people, through sweetness and ire, to get their pieces done. They made MS Project plans that were unreadable. But, they got it done. This position, if done well, maintains order, motivates troops, and is an early warning system for impending doom. At worst, this person needs explicit direction as to what goes on the list - making them basically a human dictaphone.

Level 5: The Executive Clipboard.
There is a role - which often emerges in times of great need - of the executive clipboard. This is a person who has been endowed with a stick and a stamp of approval, able to out any failures at a senior level. This person is often an executive, so that other executives feel duty-bound to respond to their queries. This person is often performing a secondary day job (making this an unreasonably amount of overhead) and this is usually short-term. Still, at some level, it requires all the same finesse of Level 4,with a more hard-ass attitude.

For each level of clipboardery, there's a scope, a goal and a best practice. Each can be done with an iron fist or a velvet glove - or both. Each can make friends or gain enemies. And each has a really critical role to play in the forward progress of a project. And, if you're living in an organization, you're going to find yourself doing one of these jobs at some point. To thine own clipboard level, be true.

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