Friday, October 03, 2008

Who moved the cheesy biz lit?


Who Moved My Cheese? It's the question that launched a thousand presentations, countless imitators, and several snorts of derision. (That last part = all from me.)

So when our COO asked us to read it in advance of a strategy meeting, I nearly threw up. Gag me with a spoon, I really cannot stand the hokiness -- dare I say, cheesiness -- of this book. (Read some other reviews.) Because if you don't understand that the world requires you to adapt or die, you don't deserve to be called an adult.

The timing of the request, however, had merit. Fresh off my vacation, I was taking some time this week to evaluate where I was in my job, almost 8 months after joining. Back then, I came into the role thinking I knew exactly what to do. Imagine my surprise when I realized the organization, its people, and its systems were completely different than from my last job! Who knew??

Thus began a steep learning curve where I as a managing editor was tasked with creating structures for processes I hadn't learned yet. The situation was not unusual, and neither were its outcomes -- a mishmash of cobbled-together editorial calendars, shot-in-the-dark decisions, and a pollyanna attitude (and rude awakening) about our internal review/approval process.

Now, eight months later, those same outcomes are cramping my workflow style. The systems I created are out-of-date, clunky, and not at all scalable for our new web presence strategy. Worse, it doesn't reflect my team's dynamics, so I end up spending most of my time navigating broken tools that are supposed to SAVE me time.

Clearly, Houston, we have a problem.

Enter Who Moved My Cheese?, which I still think is stupid and simplistic after re-reading this week, but which gave me clarity about my current transition with two key points:

1. A change imposed is a change opposed.

Making up an ed cal format or approval process entirely on my own is doomed to fail, because it will be incomplete and exclusive. How can I profess to be a team member if I dictate all changes? So I asked my boss, what exactly are we trying to achieve? What do we need to know? Who needs to know it? Do we need to measure or track anything? I'll ask my teammates what information they need, and what type of tool they would use. And together, we'll create a more flexible ed cal that has everyone's buy-in from the get-go.

2. Activity does not equal productivity.

Band-aids don't help when you need bypass surgery. Yet that's exactly when I'm doing to myself. Time to stop hiding behind the guise of busy-ness with redundant spreadsheets and complicated comparisons, and instead create a snapshot view of where we are on the Web, when. Then I can take those freed-up hours to do some REAL good, like build our blog, attend conferences, and build my sense of popularity by amassing Twitter followers.

Wherever I end up, it won't be perfect forever. At some point, I'll take a look around and realize it's time to hit the road again. And though I refuse to say that my reward will be navigating the maze and finding new cheese, I WILL say that when I arrive, my first action will be to ban this book ... but not its principles.

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