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March 2015   

Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 8)


By: Doug Bellamy

What follows is the seventh letter in a series of letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt, when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized, throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

Knowing we both need to get back to the subject of the impending doom and glorious fact that we’re about to be overwhelmed with the blessed-curse of extreme busyness, I have no alternative but to devote this letter to a continuing summary of both the problem and the solution to our organizational communication problems.

If we get busy, as we no doubt will, and we don’t have our communication problems resolved, the problems that naturally accompany busy periods are going to be exacerbated and compounded. I concluded my last letter by alluding to the undeniable fact that we are smack dab in the middle of the information age and info is coming at us (like it or not) at a breakneck pace. Our devices—iPhones, tablets and desktop computers—buzz, ring and ding, popping up reminders, as they rapidly accumulate non-stop information. We may or may not be available at the moment, but rest assured it will be there waiting once we get to it. By then, somebody will be needing something they aren’t getting, most likely waiting impatiently as our response time lags and the need may well have been urgent.

Yes, everything from junk mail to urgent needs, trivial to critical, comes at us demanding that we sort the meaningful from the meaningless and respond. Information and requests pour into our inbox. Text messages, ever-ringing phones, call waiting and voicemails besiege us relentlessly. It piles up on us at an almost impossible rate to manage. Note that I said "almost” impossible rate to manage. It is manageable but you have to have a good system in place, stay current as technology advances and know several tricks of the trade. Otherwise, I have a one-word description for the results you’ll get: anathema! One thing is certain, no—make that two: This deluge of information isn’t going away, and it simply can’t be ignored.

In the midst of this reckless chaos of ever-changing and developing technology and surging information overload, every organization seems to have its unfair share of foot draggers. These old-school pockets of resistance are either stubbornly unwilling or willingly ignorant or, in the worst case scenario, both. They are insistent on remaining in self-denial, persistently ignoring an inevitable reality. What pray-tell is it? Nothing that isn’t unmistakably obvious.

This is a new age. Business has moved into the 21st century and whatever we were doing yesterday probably isn’t sufficient for tomorrow, much less next year. And no one, nor any business, can escape the onslaught of information cyberspace and technology dumps on us daily, no—hourly, moreover momentarily and second by nanosecond. We have no alternative but to learn how to manage it effectively or you/I, our businesses and any other fool-hearted employee will be instantly deleted.

These folks (the resistance) are encouraged by the fact that on top of all this change, there are problems with our devices: viruses, bugs, hackers, imperfections with software and IT people who don’t get this stuff resolved as fast or as thoroughly as needed. The result? They give up. They complain that it’s useless, a pain in the neck and it doesn’t work. Consequently, they continue to bog our organizations down as they fail to stay current with today’s technology, meanwhile feeling perfectly justified.

Recently, an organization I’m well acquainted with set up a mock test to assure their management was ready in the event of an accident. There were three simple questions, one of which was, "What two things should be done first and second, in the event of a life threatening injury?”

A group email was sent notifying them to treat the email notification as though an accident had actually occurred and to reply/respond ASAP. They were also notified by phone immediately after the email went out, and if they were unavailable, a voicemail was left, telling them an urgent email had been sent and to please act on it immediately.

Their responses and/or lack thereof were very telling. By the time two of the 10 managers replied, the fatally injured employee could have been buried. The third lagging manager took 24 hours and had to be reminded verbally to do so. Of the remaining seven, three were extremely prompt and the others replied in a few hours. One of the 10 answered all three questions perfectly, but six others were close enough to have handled the accident well. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority were still way too slow for an accident. All things considered, this was not a good situation when it comes to safety and organizational communication.

Let me say something here that I think we need to ponder: Most of our problems at the bottom originate at the top! Managing well translates into executing well and vice versa. Poor execution is more often than not the result of poor management. Forget the blame game and complaining about how poorly our subordinates perform. Their performance is a direct reflection of how well we manage. Ouch! Yes, I know that hurts, but to quote an ancient proverb, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” To put it into today’s vernacular, I’m doing you a favor by telling you the truth and yes, the truth hurts.

OK, I’ve cursed the darkness long enough; allow me to light a candle. So what are we gonna do? I’ll get right back to you on that.

—Jack

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at dougbellamy@me.com.

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