things I have learned as a manager 2

This post follows on from things I have learned as a manager but I wanted to do something slightly different.  The list of problems one encounters has many more entries, such as the Rashomon moment, and we’ll come back to them at some indeterminate point in the future, but here I wanted to do something slightly different.  Rather than focusing on the problems, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the roles that I’ve found myself taking on in my current role.

THE TIRE BETWEEN THE BOAT AND THE DOCK: There are many things on which reasonable people can disagree, and this fact of reasonable disagreement sometimes runs head on into the need for a decision to be made.  The description of this one comes from the use of old automobile (and truck, perhaps) tires to prevent boats from becoming damaged if they were to run into the dock, even at slow speed.  And yeah, there are days when I spend a significant chunk of my time listening to both sides and then either implementing a decision made on high by the powers that be, or being the one to make the decision which by its nature will cause someone to be disappointed.  And sometimes, it’s just about being the one to listen.

DR NO: This one is related to the previous Tire, Boat and Dock role, but rather than being the listener or the shock absorber, I am the one who prevents my colleagues from doing something they want to do.  Occasionally, the thing they want to do is outwith the regulations, but this is rare.  Most of the time, the request comes down to an interpretation of rules and regulations, and it can be complicated.  A university is a large organisation and like other large organisations, we have precedent and the need to maintain reasonable consistency in our decisions.  But this need to respect precedent and consistency mean that there are (on the surface) seemingly reasonable things that cannot be done, because the existing precedents point towards a different decision.

THE CONSIGLIERE: And just to note at the start, I am taking here a broad interpretation of the word.  One of my favourite characters from The Godfather is Tom Hayden, as portrayed by  Robert Duvall, who is the advisor.  I spend a fair chunk of time talking to colleagues about the different ways to get to their desired outcome within the bureaucratic and administrative structure of the University, where such is possible.  I enjoy this, partially because it allows me to extract some value for the time I’ve spent becoming familiar with how the University works but largely because I like being able to assist my colleagues in reaching reasonable outcomes.  And also, talking to people early in the process often means that I can miss taking on either of the other two roles, and that also makes me happy.

And just because I don’t know when I’ll get back to this topic, the Rashomon moment takes its name from the Kurosawa movie where we get multiple views of a single event from different points of view, which do not easily mesh with one another.  And this happens a lot, where reasonable people can have different memories of what decisions were made at a meeting or what was agreed in conversation, or even different interpretations of things written.

~ by Jim Anderson on 17 September 2016.

5 Responses to “things I have learned as a manager 2”

  1. And THIS is why I’m glad you are now on the Milford Comittee…

  2. […] Rashamon is a reasonable mosaic story is the place that the Rashamon moment has on the list of things I’ve learned as a manager, tying together here things that don’t necessarily need to be tied […]

  3. […] would like to pick up a theme I started working through some time ago, namely the Rashamon phenomenon.   As I go on in my career, I find myself pondering this […]

  4. […] interested, some of these past posts can be found here and here, here and here, here and here, here and here. Another thing I’ve discussed along these lines is transparent head syndrome, and at […]

  5. […] I wrote about lenses and how they affect our observational windows. This relates as well to the Rashamon moment, that I touched on briefly some long time ago. I’m thinking about lenses again, and there is one […]

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