Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The purple mushroom theory

"I think we need a meeting to talk about purple mushrooms on the new website. They're not on the approved plan, but nobody signed off that they shouldn't be, so we need to discuss this ... Just being careful." -- He who shall remain anonymous

Today I discovered purple mushrooms. They grow in deep, dark places, such as the recesses of a manager's mind. They manifest as the unexpected twists, surprise additions, convoluted conversations, and memory lapses that occur in any project lifespan. You don't see them coming until you step in them ... and then the poison spreads.

Today's purple mushroom was the request to not only list the direction/item we were taking, but also all the directions/items we were not taking. This was to avoid any confusion about the direction we had all agreed on several months ago, and to avoid all confusion for the rest of time.

Oh. Of course. That makes perfect sense.

::gags on mushroom::

So, how can I get around this mushroom patch without harming myself or others? Here are some options:

1. Give the people what they want. Spend the time and energy to brainstorm every possible thing we might want to do on our website until the organization dissolves. This means that time and energy will NOT be spent on the main focus of my job. Interesting tradeoff. Will it fly?

2. Push back. Hard. My protestations were not well-received in the shadow of the purple mushroom. The purple mushroom planter made his request very clear. That said, spending 30 min. revisiting the request in a cooler moment might save several hours of unnecessary effort. And really, let's be serious -- I wasn't hired to be a mushroom farmer. I was hired to do my job.

3. Ignore and proceed. This strategy has worked in other arenas of my work life before, and it might work here. Surely the mushroom can't survive if we don't give it water. So let's go ahead as planned, and see if anyone notices.

Hmm. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll do a combination of 1 and 2 (though 3 sounds the most fun). I also have been in the workforce long enough to know this isn't the last purple mushroom I'll encounter. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

In the meantime, watch where you're stepping.

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