pooling your assets

“It is seldom very hard to do one’s duty when one knows what it is, but it is often exceedingly difficult to find this out.”  ~Samuel Butler

 Some folks work at places where people don’t agree with each other.

I am pretty sure you may know someone that works at a place like this. You know the story… each individual feels like they are the key to the company’s success. Each manager thinks that the doors would shut if they were ever to “up and leave”. Each department knows that they are the reason that the company is in business in the first place. No matter who you talk to in this hypothetical company, they can easily point out 100 things that are wrong with the way things are done, and the dozens of people that screw it up despite their efforts to keep the place open for business. So each of these folks put up barriers to protect their efforts and solidify their definition of self worth.

 We call these barriers “Walls”, and for the sake of discussion I will refer to them as if they were walls in a swimming pool. So what I am explaining looks like this.


The arrows represent the path to success, the swimming is the assigned duties by area of responsibility, the water represents the challenges you will face, and the swimmers are the assigned employees. We should agree that the end result is whatever the company’s idea of achievement is. Chances are we are talking about some version of prosperity.

Companies like this always seem to have meetings where co-workers get together over glazed donuts and poppy seed bagels for team building exercises where they end up joined by the hands in a circle singing Kumbaya and chanting a company war cry. They focus on breaking down imaginary walls between departments and sharing duties across the masses to produce a more productive environment. The idea is, we are all in this together and we should all share in all of the responsibilities to insure the future success and profitability of the company.

 So let’s knock those walls down and get some stuff done, shall we:


Ooops! By removing the things that separated the importance of each area, we seemed to have created a bigger problem than we started with. You see, there are no assigned duties. There is less structure. There are no checks and balances to insure that the job is completed. Everyone is so busy in there “group hug” that no one is noticing that the company’s profitability is headed down the drain.

 So I would like to propose a happy medium:


I say don’t ever completely rid your company of walls. Simply make them lower! Continue to “divide” responsibilities. Insist on separation of tasks. Create job descriptions. Assign Metrics.  Acknowledge that different people have different strengths and allocate them accordingly.

Don’t ask a dog to meow for a living when you know darn well what he was made to do.

The one thing that you must always maintain, however, is the understanding that the water still represents the challenges that are present when trying to get the job done. We just have to make sure that we will each focus on our chance to carry the load, but we must be patient, understanding, and respectful of our coworker’s areas of responsibility.

Now that we are on the same page…lets change the subject a bit.

How is your “family pool” constructed? How are your walls set up? Do they exist at all? Who’s responsible for what? How do you work as a team to be successful? How much of your efforts are going down the drain because your so busy singing Kumbaya that you are forgetting that you each have a job to do? How much of your responsibilities are being left for someone else to take care of?

What is the goal of the family and is everyone aware and in agreement?

Look, this could lead into about a million different conversations, but let’s keep it simple. You don’t simply separate responsibility without assigning it; you divide it based on the strengths of the swimmers on the team. You don’t get respect just because you say you’re a good swimmer; you earn it by showing the others you want to swim with them. You can’t demand things to run smoothly and hope they stay that way; you have to teach them how to swim efficiently and explain what they are individually responsible for.

Everyone has a place in the pool. Everyone has a job to do. I can’t help but think that everything could be so much easier if we allowed each member of the team to do their job so we could stay focused on our own responsibilities as opposed to pointing out the areas of opportunities of others. The lowering of the “Walls” in any organization is paramount to its success. When the walls are low, no one has an impassable obstacle in their way when they want to cross over to encourage a teammate…and no one is out of reach for someone to help when they need it the most.

Now doesn’t that sound like a cool family?


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