05 May, 2009

The game is called "Put up, or shut up"

One of the real sources of pain for this team has been the long-time lack of real KPIs or duty statements. What we've had (and what's made it so hard to manage Ted E.) is that the ones we have had are so toothless and generic that it's impossible to measure any kind of performance against it. Points were awarded, essentially, for turning up at some point during the day and looking at your email. You didn't need to do anything productive with it - just look at it. Even reading it was optional, as Ted E. demonstrated time and again. So one of the many challenges facing The Invertebrate was working out what people should be doing, and how to measure their actual ability. 

Two of the things that Ted E. has been complaining relentlessly about, but contributed nothing towards resolving, have been having to give people information on the phone ("Why can't we just give everyone access to all our systems?"*) and the different information resources used across our area such as wikis and shared documents ("They're just another place to have to look for stuff, and I don't like them and don't know how to use them."**)

Finally it wears The Invertebrate down, and he has a bright idea.

"Tell you what, Ted - those can be your KPIs.  Find out what information the other teams want, whether they want access to our systems, and what we need to do to make it available to them. Then you can look at our part of the wiki and begin working out what needs to go there and how we should organise it."

Ted E., of course, is aghast. He spends the first month after that complaining constantly to the other teams that he's been told to achieve something. Another month passes and he realises that the tasks aren't going to go away if he ignores them, and that for the first time since he started here he's going to undergo a performance review where he'll actually have to demonstrate that he's made a legitimate effort to do something.

To his dismay, he discovers that the other teams don't want direct access to our systems for much the same reasons I don't want them to have access. He's going to have to keep answering half-a-dozen phone calls a day (I made him keep a phone log once for a couple of weeks to quantify how busy he was with the phone - his busiest day was 15 phone calls in 8 hours). So that was a setback for him, but it's given him something new to complain about. 

Much more entertaining was his very late realisation that he hadn't just been asked to look at the organisation's wiki and complain about what he didn't like, but had to suggest a useful way to remedy this. He asked The Invertebrate to explain again to him what he was supposed to do and almost had a coronary when he misunderstood the answer and thought he was being asked to actually write content for other people to read (and complain about). He relaxed visibly when The Invertebrate clarified that all he had to was propose a workable structure.

Then he went wild-eyed and surly when The Invertebrate clarified that writing content was going to be part of his next round of KPIs.

It's not quite the regular beating that Ted E. needs to keep him in line, but it will do for now.

* Answer: because it's an unintuitive and unnecessarily complex home-grown system that no-one completely understands; 95% of the information in there isn't relevant to the handful of phone queries Ted E.'s trying to get out of answering; and experience dictates that we can't trust the other teams to use the 5% that is relevant responsibly (or even legally). 

** The Ted Solution here is that we should continue to hide our own information in The Morass, and complain loudly that no-one tells him anything or writes anything down for him where he can find it without thinking.


FelixAndAva said...

Possibly dumb question: what's a KPI?

Argh said...

Key Performance Indicator: basically it's a performance goal where he and The Invertebrate agree on a couple of things Ted E. should work towards as part of his performance review, where there's a measurable outcome. The ones we have now are a big step up on the previous ones, which were the equivalent of getting marks just for turning up each day and keeping the seat warm.

FelixAndAva said...

Thanks. Hadn't heard that term before.