Tag Archives: Working Life

Mr Red and Mr Blue and Aphra’s Humble Pie

Mr RedI ought to update you on the Mr Red saga. You may remember that I had a disagreement earlier this summer with my boss. His middle initials are J.F.D.I. but I like to have a Plan A, a Plan B and if necessary a Plan C. So much so, in fact, that a previous boss once said “Ms Behn IS Plan B”.

The long and the short of the story was that I had grave misgivings about the fact we were failing to plan because of course that meant we were planning to fail. In the end I realised it was a doctrinal difference, gave in gracefully, and we agreed a five pound bet.

I paid up yesterday because the bugger was right and we didn’t need any more planning than we had already done, and we drank it at the team’s disbandment do. Nothing alarming, just another go round on the merry-go-round.

Mr BlueIn other news, a local Blues Club has chosen our wee village Hall as a venue, and while I am far too lazy to seek out the Blues, I am more than happy to partake if they are on my door-step.

In the immortal words of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band:

Can Blue Men sing the Whites
or are they Hypo-Crites?

(Scroll down to Line 19 for a sample).

Mr Red and Mr Blue and the Other Boot

Mr RedI’ve already blogged about the fact that I feel distinctly uneasy working without a Plan B.

Management texts define a Project as a complex one-off activity and a Process as a repeatable one. I have put it to Mr Red, who’s my boss, that no-one chez nous has previously done the work we’re are doing, that there are lots of places where it can go wrong and that therefore it qualifies as a Project. I won’t bore you with the scope of the thing, but I do tend to win “my roll-out is bigger than your roll-out” discussions with former colleagues at the Geek Reunion Ball.

Mr BlueAnyway, it isn’t being managed as a Project and we don’t have any contingency plans if things go wrong except “work out what to do at the time”. We are a bloody minded bunch so it’s an approach that will work, but it takes so much effort to make it up as I go along. I’d much rather implement a plan I made earlier. Maybe I just watched too much Blue Peter as a child.

I have been predicting doom and gloom like the dour Scottish one from Dad’s Army, and reminding my team that people always over-promise and under-deliver, and being told on a daily basis “Aphra, you are so cynical”. Well, cynical or not, I’m also right. Ner.

We are in fact only one week behind where I expected to be, which is a month behind where the rest of the team expected to be, all because other people over-promised and under-delivered and we believed them instead of tracking their status on a daily basis. I may be cynical, but Mr Red told me not to be anal, and now look at us.

All of that as it may be, I have spent the last 8 weeks waiting for Something to Go Wrong. Now that it has, I feel an enormous sense of relief. We have no choice now but to deal with reality. No more floating around in pretty-fluffy-cuckoo-land where people do what they say they do without being checked up on and software tests perfect the first time through.

I am thinking of having a motivational poster printed up saying:

People lie.

 

Software fails.

 

Deal with it.

Introducing Mr Red and Mr Blue, and the fight for Aphra’s Soul

I’m caught up in a doctrinal war at work.

Mr RedIn the red corner we have someone who is intensely delivery-focussed. (Forgive the jargon, it’s late and I don’t have the energy to translate). He likes to get in there, get stuck in, tackle the problem head on and just sort the fuckers out. He’s good at it. It’s a bull in a china-shop approach, but if what you want is empty shelves then it works.

Mr BlueIn the blue corner we have someone who is equally focussed on delivering results. However his approach is much more measured. He plans. He analyses the problem and works out how much time and effort is needed to deal with it. He discusses the options with the people involved to get their agreement. He looks at the risks and takes the same approach of planning, analysis, discussion, and so on fractally, until the thing is done. This way not only are your shelves empty, but someone else did the heavy lifting and the china is neatly stacked and sorted too.

And then in the middle there’s me. I was born a Red girl (ever the Scarlet woman) but experience has shown me the benefits of the Way of Blue. As the RAF so elegantly put it, poor planning leads to piss-poor execution.

On Wednesday I realised that this is a doctrinal issue; a matter of world-view and belief, that there really is no point in putting Mr Blue’s arguments to Mr Red or indeed putting my own azure viewpoints myself. Mr Red simply won’t countenance the unnecessary over complexity of what I propose, any more than I can accept the risky, dangerous, scarletness of how he wants me to work.

This leaves me with a problem. Do I do my work the Red way, in the belief that I will fail and the knowledge that my name is written all over it? Or do I fight Mr Red tooth and nail, even though he is my boss and ultimately what he says goes? Or, rat-like, do I leave the ship?

When I typed that I brought myself up short. The answer seemed pretty obvious. Look for a nice turquoise or aquamarine project to work on and stop banging my head against a red brick wall. So what’s stopping me?

The problem is I really like Mr Red; he’s fun to work for. We work well together when we do work together (he’s not just red, he’s invisible). He’s funny, supportive, energetic, helpful, positive, determined, optimistic, enthusiastic. The perfect boss in very many ways. Except for this foolish adherence to the Way of Red. (Mr Blue on the other hand is a dour bugger, and can be hard work to work for, but that’s another story). If I did leave the ship and scuttle off somewhere else in the harbour then I’d miss out on a lot of good things, including trust, by not working for Mr Red.

Interestingly, one thing I said on Wednesday brought him up short completely. I said “I don’t think I can fly by the seat of my pants for 6 months; I don’t think I can handle the adreneline”. There was an audible crashing of mental gears (we were on the phone – perish the thought we’d actually meet to talk these things through) and then he said “then I’d have to look at restructuring the team”.

He did soften that immediately, but I do find it interesting that we are both aware that the that task and the tool might not be best suited to each other.

Sorry about the over-flow of metaphors. It’s been a colourful week.


Had a meeting with Mr Red today. He pointed out that we are both itching to be able to turn round to the other and say “I told you so”. So we’ve each put down a fiver on it which we’ll drink when we know who was right, probably on an appropriate Friday in September. It is going to be an interesting summer. He seemed quite confused that I don’t view work as an extreme sport.