Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thinking out loud

I'll say I'm a thinking out loud person and photographer. I like finding humor in almost anything I come across. It's part of my psyche and perspective, and sometimes my former co-workers and friends found that troublesome but I always did it with a smile and often in jest. It's what I've always been from childhood and embedded in my thinking.

For a number of years in my work with the USGS I was supervisor and a member of the office chief's senior staff. He was an ardent advocate of Total Quality Management (TQM) so went went through a series of tests to assess our personality and perspective within the TQM framework. It turned out I was a "fringe" person. And what's that?

Well, TQM emphasizes several types of employees, described in concentric circles outward from the boss and his senior staff. At the core are the loyal, trusted advisors and staff members. In the next ring are the general employees, loyal to the organization and the boss, but not always involved in the decision process. This group is usually 75+% of the organization. At the outer ring are the fringe people.

The general employees are usually the ones to follow decisions and become part of the "team" when requested, and who will reflect the organization's goals and plans. They rarely questions thing, assuming management is the smarter of the greater goals, plans and directions of the organization. The fringe people are almost the opposite of these employees, but in the TQM books, they're often the most needed.

Why? Fringe people, while dedicated employees aren't blindly loyal, always questioning decisions and actions. It's not rebelousness, but simply understanding. Fringe people are the free thinkers, the ones who look, see and think "outside the box", who look outside the organization for new ideas. That's what almost always advances the organization. New ideas rarely come from "normal" employees, but the fringe people, especially the radical ones that are often ahead of management.

This often means fringe people are those most distrusted employees, ones seen as second-guessing or interpreting management's decisions and actions. While many manager tend to remove or dismiss fringe people, the better managers embrace them to find ways to let them flourish, which in the end advances the organization and everyone in it. And me?

Well, I had a history of it at work, and use my photography now to express it. Why would you need to know you can't drive past that sign, like you could? Behind it obviously is a footpath, hedge and building. That's humor in the photo. The sign is for the road going left into a restaurant parking lot which has no exit. It's placed for those turning in to the lot see it, but somehow it's seems obvious standing there. It's a very short parking lot and if you can read the sign you can see it's a deadend.

Anyway, I thought it was funny. Maybe not to you but then, as they say, you had to be there?

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