20 May 2009

Organ I zatioN

Lately I've been paying some attention to things like the collaboration, productivity, administration and general logistical aspects of work. By "work," in this context, I mean any effort geared toward a specific goal. But I also mean my day job. So, rehearsing a play, yes, revising a short story, yes, and figuring out how to order toner cartridges with great efficiency: yes. This is part of my newish strategy of looking at my life as more interrelated than disparate, but that perspective is also coming pretty naturally to me just now. Recently I've had to take on extra responsibilities at el jobbo del day, due to the laying off of others who were far more experienced at said extra responsibilities, and this has been a drain on my time and energy for other ventures. However, it has also yielded some surprising rewards ("not more money--that's just what he'd expect us to do...") and the main of these has been a discovery that I'm really rather interested in questions of leadership, organization and procedure.

Last summer I obsessed for a while over a Flash game called Fantastic Contraption. The gist of the game is to use common elements to engineer a machine to achieve some transportation goal. I was not especially clever at it, but got a great sense of accomplishment from overcoming successive failures until the goal was reached. In a sense, it was reminiscent of a good, difficult rehearsal, in which I try everything and become more and more dedicated to solving a problem the more failures I experience. In a rehearsal process, there's a philosophy of which I'm a fan that says that there are no bad acting choices; not really. Only good, or better. (Or, as I believe to be grammatically better: gooderer.) The idea being continual improvement in effectiveness, not to mention nurturing an environment in which people can be free to experiment creatively, without fear. It creates constantly improving solutions, and really big mistakes -- the kind from which you learn more, and quicker.

Of course, when it comes to most office work, big mistakes are terrifying things. They involve large sums of money, or people's legal statuses, etc. Yet it seems to me that there is too significant a dichotomy between those who keep their heads down and follow procedure, and those who innovate within an office environment. Is all that negative reinforcement directed toward getting people in line with procedure helping, or in fact hampering the work process? I'm not trying to make a sweeping statement here (horribly inefficient: sweeping) about the rules of the theatre lending insight into the process of the office. The current flows both ways. Much of the administrative structure in an office makes better sense and allows better allocation of resources than your typical theatre process does, and it's ridiculous to argue that structure can't apply to artistic endeavors. Structure is, of itself, an artistic endeavor.

There's been a lot of discussion recently on new forms of organization in corporate America and -- almost as though someone's been reading this here 'blog -- the comparative value/cost of multitasking and single-focus effort, amongst other process notions. I don't claim to have a significant contribution to make to these debates (though multitasking is broken and wrong) but every so often I'm excited by the idea of getting things done in a new way. It's oddly satisfying to me, at my day job, when I feel I've made even the smallest change that helps the whole contraption move better. Such ideas for change usually come about because I'm sitting still, thinking about the situation, and unafraid. It's a state that reminds me of the moment-to-moment pauses in my writing process. Does a conventional work environment allow for much of this? I'd say not. I'd also say, it ought to.

The funny thing is, I'm good about gradually organizing things at el jobbo del day, but in my life -- not so much. The first explanation that springs to mind is laziness, the second, lack of motivation (read: money). Yet I question these responses, precisely because they spring to mind. They're motivated by an energy similar to what administrators typically imagine will motivate their employees, stress, and I wonder what the response might be after a little time taken to sit quietly and mull over the situation. In fact, perhaps it's difficult to do this in the rest of my life because I relent to the stress more outside of the office, rather than carving out those moments to ruminate on it all.

Managing others is a skill; managing yourself is a hard-won talent.

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