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the shoe is on the other foot May 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Experiences.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the many things I have to do around here at CorporateSpeak is make sure everything we put into in our archival system is properly entered, tagged, and spelled so that we — or others in the company, both here and worldwide — can find it if they need to use it. Ever since we implemented the new archival system just over a year ago, it’s been a constant battle.

The first problem is “new”. For what we do, anything new is first dismissed as “someone else’s job”, then feared as “another thing we have to learn”, and finally grudgingly accepted with a resounding, “well, if we have to do it, at least we can do it crappily and someone else can clean up after us, right?”

Now the shoe is on the other foot. (CC-licensed photo from Moore Photography)

Now the shoe is on the other foot. (CC-licensed photo from Moore Photography)

Yeah. Right.

I have made literally half a dozen efforts to get people to properly archive their stuff. Really the problem is centered on the layout/mockup team, whose job it is to take all the stuff coming in and turn it around into something production can send to our clients. They’re the ones who also have to send things to archival when they’re done with them.

My L/M team, let me introduce you to them.

  • Rich: Rich is very talented and is honestly willing to do better, but English is not his first language and he often messes up spacing and punctuation. Given that other branches of the company pride themselves on their exactitude, this just makes us look bad. He also is ignorant of proper formatting no matter how many times I tell him.
  • Darren: Darren transferred here from another office a couple of years ago and seemed not to give a damn about the place, but his talent in many areas allowed his managers to overlook those problems. Fortunately, he has turned himself around and is actually now helping quite a lot with web stuff.
  • Amy: Amy is by far the most interested in everything that goes on here. She’s taken on a ton of stuff that isn’t her job, including a lot of web duties, and she’s made it her mission to get people to do better. She’s the one primarily responsible for Darren’s turnaround. Amy is also the youngest person on the team, so she hasn’t been ground down by the tedium of the business yet.
  • Vince: Vince doesn’t even try. He just sends his stuff to archival as-is and knows someone else will fix it. Worse, no matter how often I complain to his manager he just keeps doing his own thing.
  • Jim: I’ve got a whole entry about Jim over here. Jim is actually getting much better, and I’ve reinforced him with e-mails thanking him for his good work. Other people still have problems with him, but in my case, except for the occasional spelling error (which we all make, even me), he’s doing fine now.
  • Tom: Tom is exceptionally good at layout and mockup. It’s all he’s ever done, and it’s all he’ll ever do. He’s applied himself to being great at this one thing. Just not at anything else.

I’m pretty much setting all this up so I can experience a little schadenfreude as I watch Tom go through his own troubles lately.

After several rounds of layoffs, Tom, who is pretty much indispensable (that’s not a joke; his position and his presence are pretty important around here), was tasked with making sure all physical archival materials are properly put away when people are done with them so they can be found again — usually by Tom and his co-workers — when they’re needed. It’s extremely similar to what I do; it’s just that I do it electronically.

Tom started by sending out an e-mail in both Outlook and CServer, asking people to return archive materials when they were done.

Yeah. That didn’t work.

After cleaning up, Tom sent another e-mail, a bit more strongly-worded.

Still no success.

Now there are signs all over the place exhorting people to put away their archival materials if they’re older than a month (which is the rule, and has been since… um… forever… except that without Larry, who took the corporate buyout in January, there’s been no one actually doing physical archival for four months).

Yesterday, I watched Tom ask the assistant project manager for one of our pro sports clients if she still needed the videotapes that had been left in his area. The APM said someone else had taken them out, and she wasn’t sure, so Tom put them on the client rep’s desk with a note.

I guarantee that rep won’t put them away.

Why is all of this relevant?

Simple: because while I was recently trying to teach Tom and his team the proper way to do digital archival, and copying those e-mails to his manager (as instructed), he came up to me and railed at me about how much work they have to do and how they’re not writers and how it’s not in their job description to do anything related to the web, and how much extra work they already do for us.

That’s when I gave up. Right there. To use a comparison I used in therapy last weekend: if you’re in LA and I’m in New York, we should probably meet in Kansas City, not San Bernardino. But if you’re not even going to get out of your apartment complex’s parking lot, then why should I waste money on plane tickets?

The absolute best part is giving Tom knowing looks when he has to take someone to task about their lack of putting things away. He knows why I’m doing it. He finally understands why I’m so anal about archival.

And, believe it or not, he’s actually made a token effort to improve. Sometimes I guess the shoe just has to go onto the other foot for your point to be made.

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1. mkraut - May 29, 2009

Hey, your middle age male demographic here…got pics of Amy?
seriously, I just started reading your blog, going back a little. Have you adopted a sort of schitzo character method?
seriously Amy? If she is taking on a lot of work, she is either getting more responsibility, or becoming a dumping ground for her senior workers.
“Never confuse hard work, with foolish, wasted effort” Buddy

2. the smartest guy gets the dumbest phone « corporatespeak - June 30, 2009

[…] I was talking to Amy, who just signed a two-year contract with her provider and picked up a new Instinct. She’s […]

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