Worthwhile
Blog Podcasts The Dialogue Magazine About Us
BLOG SEARCH
ONLINE
MAGAZINE
Subscribe
GENERAL
FAQ
WORTHWHILE FOUNDERS

Sign up for Worthwhile's free weekly e-zine.


 
Home > Blog > Best Practice -- Or Worst?
Out of Our Minds
Monday, December 26, 2005 4:36 PM
Best Practice -- Or Worst?
Eric McNulty on Business

I received an e-mail the other day that told the story of a well-known fashion designer who reportedly put a PMS color chip in the company kitchen (these are chips that designers use to specifiy colors to printers and other manufacturers -- a bit like the paint chips you get from your local hardware store) that showed the exact color that his coffee with milk should be when made for him.

It came under the title 'So You Think Your Boss is Bad.'

My first reaction was one of dismay. This person must be a tyrant. He certainly expects to send any of a number of people to fetch his coffee and he is not tolerant of mistakes. He is demanding and doesn't intend to take the time to instruct. What a jerk, I thought.

I forwarded the e-mail to a colleague and she had the exact opposite reaction. To her, the direction is clear, consistent, and more accurate than 'a little darker than camel hair'. The chip is instructional and helps anyone getting the boss' coffee understand expectations and evaluate results before bringing the cup to him. There's no wasted time repeating instructions to different people. And, she added, anyone who can't match a PMS chip shouldn't be working in the design field.

There's a lesson in different perspectives. It opened my eyes. What do you think?


11 comments

Theresa - 1/1/2006 11:39:13 AM
It might be time to start adding a little MOM (Milk of Magnesia) to the boss's coffee. Case Closed (or should I say, Case Open?).
Jennifer Warwick - 12/31/2005 5:39:33 PM
My first reaction was from a third perspective: I laughed out loud. For all we know, as Eric notes, this could have been a mischievous gesture by a boss poking fun at him/herself ('You all know what a grouch I am without my coffee; here's a color guide for your own safety') that was never actually meant as a directive.

I am more than happy to get my own diet Coke (I don't drink coffee) or do my own copying, if I'm in a rush or it's on my way somewhere. I am also happy to respectfully ask an admin to make copies so I can be doing other things (as a management consultant, you can bet my clients don't want to be paying me these fees to fuss with office equipment, even if I don't mind it at all).

And FWIW, in my experience, I hear 'I'm going to get a soda - do you want me to grab you one?' a lot more often than I hear a CEO asking a middle manager to fix their coffee.
Earl - 12/31/2005 7:31:26 AM
I think he should: 1. Get his own coffee, or 2. Hand out the chips to everyone else in the office so they can let him know what their's should look like when he (or anyone else) gets coffee for them. Does he have a special knock requirement when seeking entrance to his personal space? He sounds like an uber-weenie to me.
Bill Kinnon - 12/27/2005 2:01:15 PM
The boss is an ass (and I mean no disrespect to any donkeys who may read this.) Tell him to get his own damn coffee and get me one while he's at it. I take mine black!
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 12/27/2005 1:35:45 PM
Man, I am really out of touch with the rest of the world....I thought PMS still stood for pre-menstrual symptoms....dinosaurs of the world unite with me and help ressurect all the old acronyms.... fyi...ie and eg et al.... Oh and on the coffee note...to fetch or not to fetch has always been a question but to match it to a colour chip...All sides could be right, or not. How's that for decisive? Living la vida fearless, Jan www.tobeyourbest.net
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 12/27/2005 1:35:15 PM
Man, I am really out of touch with the rest of the world....I thought PMS still stood for pre-mentrual symptoms....dinosaurs of the world unite with me and help ressurect all the old acronyms.... fyi...ie and eg et al.... Oh and on the coffee note...to fetch or not to fetch has always been a question but to match it to a colour chip...All sides could be right, or not. How's that for decisive? Living la vida fearless, Jan www.tobeyourbest.net
Eric Sohn - 12/27/2005 11:30:53 AM
Of course, we have no context. The gesture could be impish, or could be anal-retentive.

I think it would be very amusing to have a PMS coffee wall, or to do something similar at a company potluck lunch.

Absent any context, however, Douglas' point is really the base issue - should staff be doing scut work for managers? Unfortunately, the answer isn't clear cut. On coffee, I'm in total agreement (subject to my caveats below). But, how about Xeroxing? I'm a big fan of Tom DeMarco's book Slack - people should perform work commensurate to the work's perceived value. If you have relatively expensive staff doing low-value work, you are being inefficient rather than efficient. Imagine what opportunities you could take advantage of if senior staff actually only did senior work?

On that same tack, do we know who the chip was intended for? Might it have been a temp? A person with limited mental capacities (e.g. retarded) hired to perform menial work at lower rates than designers? Someone who's deaf, for whom having a color chip is an easy way to make the coffee?

Sometimes a PMS chip is just a color guide, and an efficient way to convey information.

Oh, and Doug, I love your podcast. It's a regular listen (combination of your writing style and the episode length).
Jenny - 12/27/2005 9:23:43 AM
Even if the design worker is being paid less than the executive, how does that justify adding 'color matching boss's coffee' to the list of duties? Sorry, the job req catch-all of 'other duties as required' doesn't cover 'executive servant.' I suppose it depends on when the boss wants his coffee. Like, for example, during crunch time for the company's largest client as opposed to any other time.

More to the point, though, I don't think the color chip is all that clear. To me, it seems more of a test of 'how good are you' which, I'm assuming, the company has already determined by hiring the person charged with making the coffee at that moment. (If the opposite is true, then the company should seriously review its hiring practices.) Seems to me, if the executive was truly interested in being clear about what constitutes acceptable results, then he would include a recipe for achieving that color. I mean, if I was the worker making the coffee, I could probably achieve that color using Liquid Paper just as easily as I could using creamer. If I was the boss I don't think I'd leave the process to such chance.
Jerrome - 12/26/2005 11:46:11 PM
Have we gotten so over-the-top egalitarian that a senior executive can't ask someone to bring him coffee? There's nothing wrong here at all -- someone getting paid less is taking the time to bring him coffee (that's efficient and as a shareholder I would appreciate that), and he's being clear and specific about how he likes it. Big deal. I think your colleague is right, Eric. Wouldn't it be nice if our bosses always gave us clear, direct instruction?
Jerrome - 12/26/2005 11:40:09 PM
Have we gotten so over-the-top egalitarian that a senior executive can't ask someone to bring him coffee? There's nothing wrong here at all -- someone getting paid less is taking the time to bring him coffee (that's efficient and as a shareholder I would appreciate that), and he's being clear and specific about how he likes it. Big deal. I think your colleague is right, Eric. Wouldn't it be nice if our bosses always gave us clear, direct instruction?
Douglas E. Welch - 12/26/2005 5:42:12 PM
I would say that anyone this particular about their coffee should probably be making their own.

How much money is being wasted by having some over-qualified staff member, who could be doing productive work, making coffee for ANYONE?

It is these subtle, and not so subtle clues, that tell employees exactly who they are working for. Is this the message you really want to be sending?

Name:  
Email:  
URL:
Comments:
 

Enter this
code below:
 What is this?
Code:  
Home   |   Blog   |   Blog Archive   |   Podcasts   |   The Dialogue   |   Subscribe   |   Advertise   |   Customer Service
About Us   |   Contact Us   |   Resources / Promotions   |   FAQ
Copyright © 2006 dash30, Inc. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. 27