some management phrases that I use fairly often

I’ve been in what might be best described as middle university management for a few years now, and reflecting on the conversations I have in passing with colleagues, there are some phrases that I use often.

I’m not sure where I picked them up or from whom I took them, but I like them because I find them remarkably helpful in describing how I find some of my days.

One of these, and a particular favorite of mine, is too many plates, not enough sticks. We sometimes find ourselves in situations in which we find ourselves dealing with many different things, the plates, and they split our conversation into too many pieces. The sticks are our ability to focus, the limit to the number of things on which we can focus.

And there are times when the number of things going on is greater than the number of pieces into which we can split our ability to focus. These are then difficult and complicated times, and all we can do is to make our way through them as best we can.

Our only hope is that the plates don’t break when they find themselves dropped.

An old phrase that I find myself using from time to time is that we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One of the things that lives within me that I am often fighting, and consciously so, is that I have a great respect for the perfect.

But I have learned to accept over the course of time that as admirable as the perfect is, perfection is hard and perfection is costly, and there are times when perfection is not what is required.

There are some tasks, and I do hate to admit this, that do not deserve our best efforts. These can be transient tasks, things that have to be done to advance a task or process to its next stage, but our best is not always what is required.

Not my circus, not my monkeys is a phrase that I haven’t yet used conversationally, but I am keeping it in the arsenal of comments that I might want some day to use, should the occasion arise.

This goes back to something that someone once told me about how they deal with requests to undertake tasks. (And my apologies, it was a long time ago and I don’t remember who described to me this particular visualization.).

They said that they envisaged each current task as a chimpanzee loose in their office. And each additional task was an additional task let loose, to climb and scream and run riot, and their ability and willingness to take on an additional task then became their ability and willingness to have yet another chimpanzee running riot in their office.

And as we move forward through time, we’ll accumulate additional phrases and we’ll share the interesting ones here.

~ by Jim Anderson on 27 October 2018.

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