Andre has, yet again, inspired another post. On my last post that discussed a quick way to remind others without remembering to, he commented:
You might want to create a shared Google Calendar, adding your boss’ email address, then letting him know about the calendar.
I have a long history of trying to get my bosses to adopt parts of my system. The problem I’ve run into is that they’re much the same as other people in that they don’t want to change, and, sadly, they’re in the position such that they have others, like myself, that run things for them.
You really have to make a strong sell to them that what you’re asking them to do is a better system than the one they already have – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the operative rule. That they’re taking up your time and mental energy does not figure in to the system being broke.
There’s this other thing: I’m a Black Box worker. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, watch Merlin’s video about it (it starts around 8:30 and relevant parts until around 10ish). After the jump, I’ll go on.
I have multiple bosses wanting different things, and they don’t care what happens inside there. My experience is much like Merlin’s: they’d rather not hear about the mental sausage.
But on the occasions I’ve let bosses inside the box, there has been an unintended side effect – they start asking questions and wanting to change things inside my box to something that makes sense to them.
This is much like getting in someone’s car and changing the radio to what you want to listen to. Without asking. And even if you asked, they really couldn’t say no.
Of course, some of this may seem hypocritical, because I have no problem with trying to get you to alter your boxes. But there’s a remove between you, dear reader, and the boss that holds the reins to my paycheck and career. You can take it or leave it, as you please – the dynamics of boss and bossee leave that option out.
There’s a very delicate balance that happens here, one which I think Andre treads very carefully. His recommendation gets the boss to use some of the methods you use without giving them her privy to other parts of the box. That’s critical.
I’m at the point where I’m really unsure whether it’s worth the time and potential side effects to try to get the bosses on board. But I’m curious as to where you all are at on this one.
What do you all think? For those of you who have tried to change your boss’ system, how has it worked? What are the best practices? Any unintended consequences, good or ill?
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Amanda K. says
I am in the unenviable situation of having multiple bosses. The fun thing about that is, it is difficult enough to get them to take advantage of the systems and software we have in place now, much less try to suggest improvements. Accountants can be immoveable stones I tell ya.
Andre Kibbe says
The critical part of my suggestion was using Google Calendar for automatic, direct notification. You set the reminder in the calendar and your boss gets the email at the queued time, not you. It’s one less thing to manage in your inbox. This was contrasted with using Backpack, where you’re the one who gets the notification, then have to email your boss. Perhaps there’s a way to configure Backpack to do what GCal does, but not based on the way you described it in your original post.
The suggestion about letting your boss know about the availability of the calendar was optional. He gets the notification automatically without any input on his part (you’re the one setting it), but if he knows about the calendar, he can view it if he wishes before receiving any notification.
For instance, if on Monday he has a meeting at 2:00 on Friday, and he asks you to remind him, you make the entry in GCal, and he gets a just-in-time notification. If on Thursday, he needs to review tomorrow’s appointments to avoid a conflict, having access to the calendar before receiving the notification, with or without your presence, is a win-win situation. You’re still responsible for setting up the reminder, but he can access the reminder before receiving it if necessary. There’s no obligation for him to ever look at the calendar, but it’s there for his convenience.
If we were talking about a systemic change in workflow, I would agree that it’s usually better to stay black box about it. When I had an office job, I never used GTD jargon, though once I did have to explain how I was tracking tasks delegated to others on my “Waiting For” list (a coworker asked how I always remembered what I handed off).
In this case, it’s a minor suggestion that, if presented in the right fashion, with either be embraced or dismissed by the boss without further comment. The very first time you were asked to email a reminder, you could have said, “Sure. I’ll set of a reminder in Google Calendar.” After setting up the calendar, you could approach the boss and say, “Oh, I set up the Google Calendar to automatically email you reminder on Friday afternoon,” preferably while pointing to the actual page; then add, “By the way, if you ever need to see what’s on your calendar, you can just go to this page. Do you want me to bookmark it in your browser?” If the answer is no, the world will still turn. If haven’t overwhelmed your boss with a bunch of jargon, nor asked him to make any fundamental change in how he works. You’ve just added on option.
Yes, bosses can sometimes be unsophisticated when it comes to technology, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. If a tool is easy to implement, like GCal, and familiar (a Google solution rather than one by 37 Signals), there’s at least an even chance that a boss will appreciate the suggestion, even without actually adopting it.
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@Andre: Awesome comment!
What I failed to specify in my post is that I often have to remind the boss not of appointments, but of summaries of our discussions or of things he needs to do. That’s where Backpack works a bit better than GCal (for me).
The other thing is that (for me) using GCal would add another layer to the onion – I’m already using Backpack, so it fits right in.
Lastly, I actually like having the reminder hit me first. Something about knowing the loop is closed and being able to track my email traffic better, I think.
Most of the latter paragraph has to deal with the nature of one of my career paths in which it behooves you to stay on top of things and refer to specific emails you’ve sent. It’s handy to forward them the last “sent” message with something like “Reattack” in the message, since they know you’ve tried multiple times and it increases their sense of urgency.
Thanks for being such a cool discussant.
Andre Kibbe says
“I often have to remind the boss not of appointments, but of summaries of our discussions or of things he needs to do. That’s where Backpack works a bit better than GCal (for me).
The other thing is that (for me) using GCal would add another layer to the onion – I’m already using Backpack, so it fits right in. ”
That makes perfect sense.
“It’s handy to forward them the last ‘sent’ message with something like ‘Reattack’ in the message, since they know you’ve tried multiple times and it increases their sense of urgency.”
A very good CYA policy. Thanks for clarifying!
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