Thefeelgoodfactor's Blog

Random thoughts

Spoon on the floor

on February 17, 2013

About five years ago, when i was in 3rd/final year of engineering,one of my friends came up with an analogy to describe the characteristics of two people. The story goes like this: A person finds a spoon on the floor near a table. What does he do?

Person A: He picks up the spoon and puts it on the nearby table.

Person B: He calls people up people to say that there is a spoon on the floor and someone should pick that up.

Very recently I came across a guy who uses such stories to discuss the issues at hand. I am trying to imagine how we would use this analogy to describe the different styles of management that people follow.

Task at hand : M has been told to pick up the spoon from the floor and place it on the nearby table.

M1 (Hands-on type): Picks up the spoon from the floor and places it on the table. (Simple, isn’t it?)

M2 (Practical type): Picks up the spoon, places it on the table and makes a witty remark, ” I think they thought that the spoon was too heavy to lift.”

M3: (Show-off type) After doing the necessary things, calls up people and say, ” I have done the work myself this time. But you guys should know how to do this. In fact, there shouldn’t be any spoon lying on the floor.”(Just doesn’t matter who dropped the spoon on the first place).

M4 (Process-focused ): Will call a team meeting, say how a process should be defined so as to ensure that anyone can do this task. Just when someone points out the absurdity in defining a process for such trivial things, M4 jumps and says what if the person’s height is less than that of the table. He goes on to tell that the process should consider all the cases and should have solutions to all of them. So they end up taking 4 hours to define a fool-proof process,which takes care of all the conditions, and then one of them performs the task at hand.

M5 ( Egotist type): Calls a team meeting, says that the task is not as simple as it sounds (or else, he wouldn’t have been called in the first place). He tells them they should try to figure out the time it takes carry on the task under different circumstances by dropping other spoons of different weights and changing the distance between the spoon and the table. He spends next couple of hours discussing how to develop a tracker to maintain a record of the time, leaves it to the team to decide what parameters should be considered. After experimenting for 2 days, he comes up with following equation defining the time needed for the task at hand:

Time = sqrt(.25 * ln(weight of the spoon))*c1 + .24 * (distance between the spoon and table in cms)*c2; at 95% confidence level. 

M6 (Hands-off approach) : Asks how many people are required to do the task, assigns required number of people for the task and forgets about it completely.

And of course, there is the 7th type who will bore you to death with such analogies and leave it to others to do the actual task!

PS: Much of this is inspired by Dilbert strip.

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