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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Today, I work alone. We don’t have any renters because it’s New year’s Eve and everyone else is taking a vacation, like normal people do.

I’m here because I just took 10 days off (two days of comp time and a week of unpaid vacation, my wallet is so sad).

But guess what is the best thing ever? You all already know about this, but Pandora internet radio is the best thing ever. I first learned about this in grad school when my Consumer Behavior prof at the Columbia Business School taught us all about the algorithm as part of some lecture. I have had a personal account since then, but I have never been able to listen to music at work. Today will be full of dance breaks as I send out tax receipts to donors, update cash flow documents, and make adjustments to the website for our upcoming shows.

Sam Cook and Otis Redding Radio wish you a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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I have been too busy to post! I feel like such a cad.

But actually, this is good news, since it means I have been doing actual work.

But truthfully, I want to write about a comment I have heard repeatedly in the past few weeks:

“I am going to work on [Christmas Eve]. Everyone will be gone, I might actually get some work done.”

This type of offhanded yet all to frequent comment chills me, because it means we have all actually become so available to our colleagues, collaborators and managers that we don’t have enough time to do our work.

This is a problem. This is the same problem as “too many meetings.” This is also a real problem. We spend so much time talking and not enough time implementing. Obviously, this means that in meetings where we set the agenda, we need to be mindful of the consequences of our ideas and brainstorms. I had this moment today, when I realized I was asking too many things of a great colleague who was trying to leave the office. I just shut my mouth and then insisted that she leave the office. I was being too needy.

But I think that when we are in the subordinate/implementor position, we have to speak up and say “enough” sometimes. We can’t always say yes, without a thought for workflow, timeframes and implementation. We have to also care about how well and when we can do the work. This means US, hourly workers, freelancers and consultants! Truly.

But how do we do this while still remaining open to new opportunities? How do we make implementation part of the conversation, part of the brainstorming process, part of the crucial and often overlooked end of the meeting? How do we make time for the work part of work?

I say this because I am an “implementor” by nature and by experience. I always want to think about the big picture and I love to talk about ideas, but I also want to make sure that I am not signing myself up for hell in a small, time constrained handbasket by expressing my ideas.

Anyway, it’s something to think about, and to consider our role within. I ran into a great friend at a bar tonight, and though I monopolized her time and conversation, as I left I was concerned that I had overrun her time with her kind and patient boyfriend. It’s kind of the same problem, isn’t it?

I am headed home for the holidays, and I hope to be able to write about the work I will do at home. Not the day-to-day work I have been trying to master over the last 3 week, but the strategic, long-term work of running an organization. Also, my first ever annual appeal (e-appeal) goes out tomorrow. I am so nervous.

I got so much done yesterday and today. Yesterday was the answer to all my frustration from Monday and Tuesday. Today was even better. I got ready for a show, made a Powerpoint about a potential marketing and community engagement strategy, put money in the bank, ate lunch, started to make a marketing calendar, entered past box office reports into a spreadsheet, remade a box office report for my event managers, threw away two broken mirrors, found that someone had miraculously changed a burnt out lightbulb, found the login for HootSuite, and entered a pile of bills into Quickbooks.

This is happening! I am slowly but surely vanquishing this pile of confusion and making it into a pile of  things that are done and things that I have questions about.

Yes.

First off, let me say that I am just venting here, and this is not an overall picture of the deep love that I have for my job and the people who are helping to train me right now. Everyone is doing their absolute best in a very difficult (in fact, the nightmare) situation. I am so happy to be part of such a team.

Not at all briefly, I will say a few things on my current experience with taking over a job that was vacant. I have done this before, and it has been painful. I have also designed jobs that had never been done before, and then stepped into those jobs. These experiences have been intensely difficult, and that is why I think it is important to talk about–not to complain about what a pain it is, but to explain why poorly managed employee turnover is one of the single most unproductive (and expensive) situations for any business or organization to face.

Most of my peers tell me that it takes about a year to learn how to do your job well. I have had bosses tell me that it takes at least six months to properly train an employee so that they can work independently and produce good work without extensive supervision. Why, then, is it acceptable for employees to be trained for a few hours at a time over the course of a week? Or for a few days intensively, and then nothing at all? Or perhaps not at all? Additionally, why is it acceptable for employees to never document their own work, or at least give some contextual clues about how an organization or program is run? Why is learning a new job like a scavenger hunt or the reinvention of a wheel than it is like a learning process?

To me, high quality employee training and its corollary, the excellent documentation of one’s work processes and related data, is absolutely required. I know how to use Quickbooks, but not with certain entries that need to be done the “specific organization X way.” At the museum (shudder), I was trained on how to use any number of pieces of software, but only on the most general level, leaving me searching for guidance on how to use, for instance, the finance software, as someone who could approve bills. I had been taught only how to enter them. There was no context. I recently found instructions about how to update a website that were simply wrong on a couple of key points.  I don’t have access to a specific piece of marketing technology; nobody knows how to get it for me. The list goes on, and it has happened at every job I have ever had. Every single one.

One of my strengths as an arts administrator is my ability to document and codify process and operations, and to improve on them over time.  I have big goals for marketing, financial management, program development, fundraising…but I have little information to work from and, right now, little guidance. I am mired in history, but I have little “actionable intelligence” that I can use to solve the problems I am hearing about every day.

If I have learned anything in the last year it’s that the next time I take on a new role, I pray to every god there is that the person vacating that role will overlap with me so that I can actually ask them questions to their face and pick their brain while the information is still fresh in their mind. It is absolutely the best. On some level, managers don’t make good trainers because they only see the outcomes of the work, not the process. New employees, I think, need to know about process. Not an estimation of a process, or a concept, but the actual step by step. This intimate, detailed, granular knowledge is crucial.

One of our first big projects in the coming months, I have decided, is to begin to create an “employee manual” or a Bible or something, some comprehensive document that tells a new person everything they need to know about how processes function. We are recovering from a huge lapse in knowledge, and it will take months to get to full speed again.

The other thing I will say is that hiring a new employee and then immediately being too busy to interact with or train that person is wasteful and not a good use of that new employee. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s true. I am learning first hand about why employee turnover is so expensive for organizations. The lost knowledge, the lost productivity, the painful adjustment periods, the uncovering of errors and problems that had been swept under the rug.

I am venting frustration, but it’s only because I am so eager to move on from these procedural issues and get to work on more long-term goals. I also spent 10 hours at the office today, so I am crabby.

Time for salsa and old episodes of 30 Rock!

I have started consuming a really inappropriate amount of soda. But I have also started worrying almost incessantly. Do these counteract one another?

I have to recite my new mantra: Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same is true of this work. Building a business is a long-term, strategic process. I can’t do this alone, or by tomorrow. Today I can reconcile the checkbook through November. Today I can write an internship job description. Today I can remember to eat lunch. Today I can edit the annual appeal email.

Today I will go to a professional development cohort meeting, which I am really excited about. One of my concerns in taking this job is that I know very little about the NYC dance scene. But I am about to learn more. Sadly, I am going to miss the section specifically for small presenters, but that’s okay, because I think I can borrow some notes later on. It will be nice to meet colleagues in the field.

It is really quiet here today. It’s my first full day in the office completely alone, which I find both relaxing and lonely.

I am now working for a very young organization. I am trying to document work processes as much as possible, but I realized this week that I will also probably be responsible for documenting a set of personnel policies for myself, and therefore, for the organization.

As I started writing this policy, I realized that even thought it is scary for me to operate in this relatively unprotected environment, it is also an opportunity to shape a set of policies that protect me, that address the needs of the organization, and that will allow the organization to grow into a humane, respectful human resource policy.

I am going to have a contract, which nobody at this place has ever done before. It is for me, and I will write it. It will lay out the plan for my future. I like that I get to write it myself, even though that seems weird, it’s actually awesome. Because, as I learned during my unemployment, nobody is thinking about me except for me. So now I get to think about myself, what I want, what I think is possible, and then make it happen.

It does make me frustrated to think that I am the only one looking out for myself, but it’s true. So I might as well be in a position to damn well do something about it.

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