Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How To Prevent A Bozo Explosion

To keep the minimum work at CN happening, the core CN team needs to have day jobs. People have told us that this shows a real lack of commitment and purpose, and that if we really believe in what we are doing, we should chuck our day jobs, and get into CN 100%. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I give them a sympathetic, helpless nod. Sometimes, I even ask them for suggestions. It all depends on my mood. But one thing that remains constant, is my belief that the way things are now, I can't think of doing them any other way. I probably wouldn't do it any other way.

And well, looking at the brighter side of things, there are always things to learn from my day job. Lots of things. Those who know me, won't be very surprised to hear, that most of these learnings, are negative influencers. More often than not, I learn how NOT TO DO things. (yes, yes, I can almost see you grin and nod) Maybe someday I will wake up and realize that it is my naivete to believe that most things I see happen around me are to be avoided at CN. But till that day comes, I am gonna stick to my guns.

The most visible Bozo in an organization, is the guy who is sticking around, merely because he thinks that he has to be Somewhere, and well, why not here! He pretty much does just about what is expected of him, sucks up to the guy he has to report to, bosses around a little to people who report to him, cribs about his work place, cribs about the people around him at the loo, and basically doesn't give much, this way or that.

But these are not the most dangerous qualities of a Bozo. These, you can handle. What you can't really contain that easily, is the negative energy that such people spread around them, thereby contaminating the whole environment. They set a very undesirable tone to the culture that you might have been trying to promote. A nascent culture, that needs a lot of nurturing and protection from negative influences. And this in turn influences the people around, and before you know it, you have a whole population of Bozo's around you, and the wise men called this very phenomenon, The Bozo Explosion!

Small orgs with an aim of remaining effective, cannot afford a Bozo Explosion. And if you are a small org aiming to be effective AND have a resource crunch, you probably cannot even afford a single Bozo! So, it becomes imperative to be able to screen them out at the very beginning, before they can cause harm to your baby. If not, atleast find them out quickly, and hunt them down mercilessly, before they can do much.

Some thoughts that I have on preventing such an explosion from happening are,

  • TALK to people before you accept them to come work for you. And don't just talk to them about the roles they are expected to play and the kinda work they are supposed to be doing. Talk about general things. At a small place, a closely knit group is always a preferable idea. And what you can find out about someone by just spending a coupla minutes talking to them, is often underrated. If you are not comfortable with them around over a cup of coffee, are you sure you would like to have them during the most productive hours of your work day?
  • Its better to have one employee less, than have one misfit employee more. Don't be in a hurry to get people on board. If their expectations and yours are not in sync, and an implicit compromise is being made to make this work, then it probably won't last long enough. It might work at larger orgs, but at startups, the secondary incentives are just not enticing enough for this kind of arrangement to work.
  • MBWA is a great way of having your finger on the pulse of the org. Try it out. It really works. At the first signs of Bozocity, beware. The sooner you douse these flames, the better. And if that aint reason enough, think about all the drasted kilo's you'll be losing, walking around, listening to people, chatting them up.
  • Don't be afraid to prune. Often, we have a reluctance to ask people who don't fit in, to leave. I think what deters this, is the hardship that a lot of us have to face initially, to get someone to come work with us in the first place. Not really wanting to go through all that trouble again, we often choose to maintain a status quo. This can prove to be very detrimental in the long run, because not only does this mean an extra bozo is encouraged, it also sends out wrong signals to the others. Bozocity needs to be discouraged sternly and quickly, before it becomes a threat.

Ofcourse, this is by no means an exhaustive list. And probably some of the more pertinent questions are still left unanswered. And the ones that are answered, probably don't take a very pragmatic approach. My apologies to you. As this post was a result of my rants against the predicament I currently find myself in, I used this as more of a vent than anything truly constructive. Hopefully, in the future, saner wisdom will prevail, and a more level headed and sensible post will follow.

Lets keep connecting the city.
Facilitator, CityNaksha.

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