Sometimes there is a reason the “road less traveled” isn’t used often. Wise travelers have researched it and found it will take you nowhere or it will bypass the very things you need to see or do or it will actually take you twice as long to get to where you need to go–or it can lead to tragedy. Shortcuts and seldom used roads can be interesting but they can have many perils.
*A trainer told me he doesn’t use photos in PowerPoint because the “thumbnail” images he copied from image searches were blurry. I suggested he use one of the free photo sites available and he said he doesn’t have that much time, so he just grabs a thumbnail image. I said, “But, you aren’t using the thumbnails because they’re not clear.” He said, “Yeah, but they’re quick.”
*Recipe sites abound with people who give a recipe one star then list the things they changed about it. One woman on www.cook.com wrote, “This cake stuck so bad it was ruined trying to get it out of the pan! I didn’t have time to do the whole grease and flour thing so I used spray-on oil, but there’s no reason that shouldn’t have worked. Now I’m out a lot of money and time.”
*An acquaintance I knew from long ago told me recently about being fired twice. He said, “You know me, I take the road less traveled and that doesn’t go over well in a lot of these stodgy places.”
*One of the documents on church safety and security that I distribute is about how to conduct a thorough assessment of the status of every aspect of the property, people, places, programs and processes of a place of worship. It involves assessing in each season and at different times of the day and night, in a variety of ways. A security director wrote to me and said, “We used your material and it was a great help. But, we didn’t want to get involved with so much assessing so we just did it on a Saturday and called it good.”
*Last week I was in Salida, Colorado teaching a class for Sheriff Pete Palmer‘s deputies and some officers from the Salida Police Department. As usual I stayed in a motel on Highway 50 and I thought I was seeing most of Salida, a nice little town. It turns out, that is a bypass around the real Salida–which is much lovelier than I realized.
The bottom line: Of course there are useful shortcuts for some things and taking an isolated road can be interesting. However, when you’re learning a new skill, new habit, new process, new recipe or new anything else, do it the complete way, the way you were told, the way it’s described, the tested way. When you’re an expert you can develop shortcuts. Another bit of advice: If you are bound and determined to do your own thing, your own way, in life, work or relationships, don’t complain when the cake sticks to the pan.
This is Highway 50 that skirts the main portion of Salida
Downtown Salida on E Street, South of US 291 and North of US 50. Nice little shops!
What About Those Bullpen Offices?
Bullpen office design is based on the open offices of newsrooms and other businesses where frequent communication is necessary and privacy is unnecessary. (The layout was developed when the only way to communicate was to talk directly.)
It has also long been used in secretarial areas where the “pool” is clustered in one big room, away from the private offices of those who give them their work. Many detective squads have that set-up as do other office-based workplaces. The difference is that it used to be there was an illusion of space because desks were a bit larger and frankly, people were usually more courteous than is the norm in many workplaces today. It also works acceptably if there is some visual space in the overall work area and if there are at least half walls between desks.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said if he was President he would establish a bullpen style White House office, like the one he now has, pictured below. He says he can’t understand why someone would want to be shut away from the action. I’ll comment on that in a moment.
A 1981 Prediction: I recall taking an office design class in 1981 and touring a business that planned offices all over the country. They had cute little model offices in various configurations, among them an open office. As the lead designer talked about the future of office design he pointed out the expense of walls, outlets and lights and how much can be saved by having everything in one big room, with a few conference rooms.
One of the other students, who had his own office, said he wouldn’t like that because he liked having privacy, even if he only had a tiny, dinky little office. He said he liked to be able to concentrate, handle business calls in private and work with clients in a more private setting. He also said he liked to be somewhat insulated from the various personalities that would be hard to handle up-close, all day. The planner said, “Well, maybe you would be willing to pay back the company the hundreds of dollars extra they spend on your tiny, dinky little office so you can have that privacy. Hmmm?” (Where is a chain saw when you need one?)
Right before we walked away from the model our teacher said she thought the open office concept might help if employees needed to solve problems together. A second designer–nicer than the first–said, “That’s how companies will sell it anyway.”
Problems with bullpen offices: I doubt there is anything you or I can say to change a decision about having a bullpen office if the decision-makers are convinced it’s cheaper and better. However, since I spend a lot of time giving advice about workplace issues on the Ask the Workplace Doctor website, let me at least say that if such an open office design is used, more is required from employees and managers to ensure an effective and tolerable workplace.
Considering Mayor Bloomberg’s admirable but not altogether applicable bullpen office preference, I’ll suggest that I doubt he spends eight to ten hours sitting at his desk every day. He’s not on a timeline to design a website, do an audit, issue checks, counsel with employees, talk with clients or handle the arrangements for a conference. If someone becomes a thorn in his paw, day after dreary day, he can do something about it.
I also will bet he isn’t surrounded by coworkers who do any of the things people write to the Workplace Doctors to complain about:
Have hygiene deficiencies of ALL kinds, hum incessantly, belch, eat smelly food, crunch ice, sigh and sigh again, pass gas several times a day and blame it on someone else, tap fingers, cry, talk about the same personal problem every day, moan in pain, giggle, pray, say one pet phrase repeatedly, slam drawers, listen to talk radio and comment, post offensive or irritating items, use profanity, wear too much perfume or after-shave, pick their teeth or their nose, gossip, complain, brag, lie, flirt, talk loudly unless they’re talking about the Mayor, in which case they whisper just loud enough for him to catch on, interrupt his private conversations, interrupt his private conversations to correct something they misunderstood in the first place, use weird voices and pretend to be various TV and action hero characters, talk to friends about him in code (“I sure wish we could get rid of the nasty odor in here.” “Yeah, let’s go to a conference room and see if it smells better there.” “LOL!”), give themselves manicures or pedicures, squirt water from a bottle into their mouths every few minutes, spit into the trash can every few minutes, cough, sniff, blow their nose or snort every few minutes, or any combination of any of these or other annoying or gross things.
Employee and manager requirements for bullpen offices. At the very best, open offices need to have enough space and privacy that people don’t prefer to work at home or find reasons to use conference rooms just to get away from noise and confusion. Employees need to monitor themselves to ensure their work space isn’t distracting and that they are good office citizens and decent human beings. They also need to manage their time better, since there will almost inevitably be more reasons to pause and also more need to keep refocusing.
Managers need to monitor the work environment and immediately intervene to stop problems before they can start or become worse. There will need to be a clear understanding of the differences between team and individual work needs.
A workable alternative: Those of you who are Parks and Recreation fans may recognize this bullpen set from the 2010 season. There is the illusion of private space, even though one office leads into another. Sadly, I don’t think this is what current bullpen talk is all about. Look at what an office planner might consider to be wasted space.
What do you think about the the idea of a Bullpen Office?