22 May 2009

Snapshot: The Big Shot

He’s been in this business for over 40 years. His rank is so high he virtually has a unique status. He heads an organization made up of several hundred people. People speak in hushed tones about the breadth of his influence and experience. He clearly knows How Things Get Done Around Here

His secretarial support crew works in two shifts, because the hours he keeps are so long that it would be unreasonable to expect anyone else to keep up. He is so constantly busy that he habitually bursts into meetings five minutes late – even at meetings that start at 0730. 

He's never so late that he misses anything important, but is generally late enough that everyone notices him. In his arms he carries a huge stack of papers and binders which he sets down loudly on the meeting table. Pointing to the stack, he says “It’s all my meetings today,” with a grin and a gesture that is half shrug, half triumphant fist-pump. This is a busy man. This is a hard working man. This is a man with immense experience, authority and influence.

I see him and think it’s too bad this guy can’t delegate. It’s too bad he can’t manage his time better. And mostly, it’s too bad nobody will hold him accountable for the miserable performance of the organization he has led for the past decades.

[RPL Snapshots are anonymized - and sometimes slightly fictionalized - stories about life in the defense acquisition community]


Dick Field said...

--Yes, and it's too bad when the standard for accomplishment is unmitigated effort rather than intrinsic worth.

Hey - you have to give him an 'A' for effort! . . . or do you?

The Dan Ward said...

Yeah, I'm just not a big fan of "working hard." I try not to work hard if I can avoid it.

It seems to me that people who demonstrate real mastery tend to do it without spending 14 hours a day in the office, running from meeting to meeting and congratulating themselves on how busy they are.

I'm also very much not impressed by people with lots of authority & experience who lead organizations that aren't performing well... Um, I think there's probably some culpability there.

The Dan Ward said...

And for those who are wondering if their boss was the one who inspired this particular post, let me offer the following disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any actual people is purely intentional... but not exclusively so. Sadly, there are plenty of matches out there...But yes, when I wrote this, I was probably thinking of the same person you're thinking of...

LookingUp said...

Why can't the leader jot down a quick e-mail on his blackberry? Or use VTC for meetings instead of driving to and from the Pentagon or wherever. Today's leader can be very efficient with his/her time.

And a big part of being efficient is trusting people to do their jobs. You hit the nail on the head -- the overworked leader is usually the micromanaging leader.