Re: YOU are responsible, even when YOU are not to blame

Subject: Re: YOU are responsible, even when YOU are not to blame
From: DGoldstein -at- DeusTech -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 08:41:06 -0600

I *loved* Jan's story, and I invite every would-be manager to try running a technical writing business on a traditional kibbutz. Here are your constraints:

* Your labor pool is almost exclusively limited to whoever happens to live on your kibbutz.
* Your investment base is assigned to the business by a democratically elected Business Committee. Managers of other businesses on the kibbutz can come to the Business Committee and argue that they need the funds more than you do.
* All job assignments on the kibbutz are controlled by a democratically elected Work Committee whose mandate is to balance the kibbutz's labor needs with the members' needs for gainful and fulfilling employment.
* The Work Committee has no way to really force anyone to do anything. Members who quit their jobs are still guaranteed their meals, housing, clothing, child care, etc., so you hold no economic power over your employees.
* Most of the members with the skills you seek are currently employed by other businesses on the kibbutz. The managers of those businesses can come to the Work Committee and argue that they need those members more than you do.
* The kibbutz is willing to let your business lose money for a few years while you develop a client base, train the writers and designers, gain expertise in field-specific marketing and management, etc. However, the Business Committee will eventually shut your business down if they don't see any future in it.
* You see your shareholders at breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Many of them have probing questions and strong opinions about how you're running the business. Your answers may affect how they vote on issues that are crucial to your business, so put down your fork and smile.

Dan Goldstein

P.S.: In the end, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of money. Wish I still had that job.

Jan Henning brightened 4/13/03 with:
> Manager, unprofessional attitude (assigning blame): Well, the writers
> are all morons - it's a waste of time to look any further because
> little can be done anyway.
> Manager, professional attitude (doing his or her best to fix the
> problem): OK, how can we get the best results from the people we have?
> If they keep making the same mistakes, is there a way to avoid that?
> True story: I know a documentation manager (working in the European
> headquarters of a Japanese multinational) wo was hired to get the
> documentation department for a particular product line into shape. It
> was pretty awful before he came, and it was hinted that he might want
> to fire almost everybody and start over with a clean slate...

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