Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One gallon of paint and 500 square feet of wall

Perhaps you are coaching a team of very young players in a recreation league and are staring across the field at your nemesis.  During his first three practices your nemesis ran his players until they puked and the three most-out-of-shape players quit....only to be replaced by three ringers he had waiting in the wings.

Or perhaps you were volunteered for a project only to have your "leader" increase the deliverables by an order of magnitude in a spate of machismo.

Or perhaps you inherited a job in a unionized or family environment and learn that compliance to Federal laws and due process had been "winked" at.

Or perhaps you found yourself staring at 500 square feet of wall and have one gallon of paint at your feet.  And the can of paint clearly states that it will only "cover" 300 square feet.

Surely, this is the universal management problem:  One gallon of paint and 500 square feet of wall.

On the soccer field

The team I coached tied the nemesis (the one who ran his girls until they puked) the last time we played.  It may have been my finest hour.

The other coach called the league coordinator to complain that I did not rotate one girl in violation of one of the league rules.  Frankly, I don't think the league coordinator gave a rat's asp.

He called me to complain that one of my girls trash-talked.  I was not on the field. I did not hear it.  He was not on the field.  He could not have heard it.  It could have been excuses for not crushing us as they had done ever other time they had played my team.  I told him I would address it.  And I did.

It may have been my finest hour.

The key, I learned, was to stack the players so the weakest players (known as "place holders") had stronger players fore-and-aft of them.  It was OK to have two weak players side-by-side.  It was fatal to have weak players one-behind-the-other.

The machismo boss

Sadly, I have no answers for the machismo boss.

Attempts to explain the disconnect between resourcing and deliverables were met with a lecture about the need to embrace failure.  I was informed that our CEO told him personally, via video link, that we needed to stretch more.  We needed to fail more as that is the only way to find the limits of human potential.

Without going into details, I can attest that we found the limits of human potential.  It was excruciatingly painful.

Inherited jobs

New bosses have a honeymoon period when underlings expect to see differences.  Tom Peters firmly advocates making all of your big moves in the first three months when everybody is looking for the new broom.

Most organizations have an "Employee Improvement Process".  The sooner non-compliance is identified and placed on the EIP the sooner they will quit, transfer or get with the program.  It sounds cold-hearted.  But most people recognize that the most demanding, the most critical positions have a high burn-out rate.  Those people need to be moved into positions where they can heal, both for the good of the firm and for the good of the person.

Perhaps the family or organization will not support you.  Better to learn that in the first six months than to grow five years older and fifteen years less salable in the marketplace.


It helps immensely if the primer is a close match to the color coat.  Primer is your friend.  Use a lot of it. Then use some more.  This is analogous to backing up three mediocre mid-fielders with two outstanding defensive players.

The color must match where it meets up to other surfaces...hallways and such.  Use the full compliment of paint there.

The color should be done as well as possible eye level.  For most humans this will be at approximately five feet of elevation.  If you cannot completely hide something, highlight it.  Throw noise at it.  Hang pictures or murals.  Use borders and shelves, mirrors and curtains.

Through the mid-regions where you do not have enough paint, thin it so it spreads evenly.  Thin and even is better than thick and clumpy.

And if your efforts prove insufficient, if the omniscient powers who gave you 500 square feet of wall to paint and only a gallon to paint it call you to account.  Be humble.  Beg forgiveness.  Promise to repaint and to thin no more.

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