Even Superman had the Fortress of Solitude

May 4, 2008

Heard another manager – a high-level one who I respect greatly – measuring ‘engagement’ among employees by counting cars in the parking lot the other day. Sigh.

I am sure that on his annual review Superman gets dinged for the time he spends in the Fortress of Solitude. “Supe, you could do just a little more world-saving if you were F2F more.”

No point here, just venting. I rarely telecommute in my current role but, when I do, I’m productive. It enhances rather than diminishes my leadership. People who are present physically and absent mentally, in contrast, are a drain on any business. It’s the very definition of wasted opex.

There are times I crave working in a ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment). To borrow the first commandment of ROWE, “Work isn’t a place you go, it’s something you do.” When you’re counting cars you’re managing appearances instead of measuring results. Appearances are only worth managing where they matter (where employee and customer interact, for example).

A car-counting manager openly admits “I have no way of measuring what you do.” A motivated employee takes that as a punch to the solar plexus – however hard I work, it’s not noticed. A demotivated employee hears the expectation clearly. To keep my job I show up, drink coffee, polish the resume, surf the web, and take solitaire lessons from Scott2k. (An obsession with managing where employees go on the web is a slightly less dated but equally misguided version of car-counting).

Managers get what they measure. Maybe I missed something. When, exactly, did the shareholders ask for lots of cars?

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2 Responses to “Even Superman had the Fortress of Solitude”

  1. Rob L. Says:

    Awwwwwwwwwwwww snap.

    Nice one Russ.

  2. rsomers Says:

    The ‘Fortress’ comment comes from Tim, as you’d expect…he uses that metaphor for telecommuting and I’ve adopted it.

    And this is all hypothetical…on my review I expect G1L1 with Bob-like quotes of ‘A straight shooter with upper management written all over him’


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