Sunday, October 01, 2006

On being ill

The trouble with planning one's life like a military operation is that things go horribly wrong when an unexpected event, like becoming ill, occurs. It creates a sort of domino effect in which everything in the sequence gets delayed.

To go some way to mitigating this effect, I build in redundancy time, although it isn't really redundant time as such. Here's an example: earlier in the week I was due to attend two meetings, and so I had designated the day before as preparation time for those meetings. In the event I was too ill to attend, which meant that I could then spend the preparation day in bed without losing much. Of course, I will still need to read all the notes I was going to read, but I can do so at a time of my choosing, within certain limits.

I learnt to do this when I was working in local government. I suspect it is the same in all high-powered jobs: nothing seems to be planned and so everything becomes urgent. What happens, according to a line manager of mine to whom I complained once, is that someone at the top of the tree is given a request for information or involvement in a project or to spend a certain sum of money by a particular date, and by the time it filters down to the people who will actually implement the thing so much time has been lost that it has become urgent in the meantime.

Logic dictates, therefore, that the closer you are to the top, the more time you will have, and the more people you can delegate to anyway. Well, it just ain't true: the people right at the top don't seem to have any concept of forward planning. They's all there because they're visionaries. Visionaries don't have to plan, they just need to have visions, and to inspire everyone by their charismatic leadership.

As for having more people to whom the actual work can be delegated, that isn't true either: they're all too busy trying to implement last week's visions.

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