The ChatterBachs posts that got the most views in 2012:
1 The Avengers: A Model Organization (June 2012)
2 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People People (July 2012)
3 The Greatest of Great Ideas in Less Than 180 Seconds (March 2012)
4 From Harvard to the NBA: 4 Organizational Lessons from Jeremy Lin (February 2012)
5 Who’s minding the cobwebs? (August 2012)
Many thanks to all my readers and commenters. I also appreciate the shares, retweets, and features on other sites. I look forward to more engagement with you in 2013.
All the best!
I recently visited an amusement park with my family. In an otherwise clean and orderly park, I noticed a number of cobwebs clinging to signs or railings. It got me to thinking… who’s minding the cobwebs? It’s probably not on the list of responsibilities for the cleaning crew as it’s not sweeping, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, wiping down tables, etc. Cobwebs probably don’t rank high on the priorities for the maintenance department when they have painting, repairs, green spaces, and other tasks to address on a daily and weekly basis.
When I was in graduate school in Educational Administration (I was on the track to become a principal or headmaster of a school), I remember hearing about a study where they watched to see who would pick up a piece of trash in a school hallway. They found that generally only two people would. Want to guess who? I’ll tell you: the school janitor and the principal. In other words, it was the person who had specific responsibility for that type of behavior and the person who had responsibility for the entire operation. Everyone one else- teachers, administrative staff, and cafeteria workers walked right on by.
There are two points here: When everyone is responsible for a task, really no one is… kind of like the community fridge in the office. No doubt it looks worse than your fridge at home does. Everyone has communal responsibility for it, but no one takes ownership of it. Secondly, if it’s not spelled out as a priority, no one takes it seriously as a responsibility. I’d like to see the organization where everyone is tasked with removing cobwebs and picking up trash they see on the floor. My guess is that as they train their eyes to see what others walk past, they’ll start to notice other areas- like business processes or customer service or communications- that need improvement too.
Since my visit to the amusement park I’ve started noticing cobwebs other places. Maybe I’ve even started looking for them. I’ve knocked them down in my garage and from railings and under my deck and from places where people might not even notice. But I’ve gotten to the place where I don’t want to see cobwebs, and I want them out of my life. Even in obscure places.
You see cobwebs represent what’s been overlooked, a lack of attention to detail. Cobwebs symbolize those areas, usually corners of our lives that we’ve gotten comfortable with, that we don’t give a critical eye to. If you look up cobwebs in the dictionary, you’ll also find that there are any number of negative associations: flimsy, insubstantial, a network of plot or intrigue, confusion, indistinctness, lack of order. I don’t know about you, but none of these do I want in my life.
It could be that cobwebs in your organization are the program whose time is past or the way of thinking that is not in tune with a connected and engaged community. It could be that employee who no longer produces but is still there occupying an office or a cubicle. The cobwebs could be the inability to take a risk on an unproven idea. The cobwebs could be a stifling bureaucracy or ineffective communications. It could be an organizational culture that causes its employees to merely clock in and clock out rather than giving their best efforts and ideas.
So, I ask again… who’s minding the cobwebs? In your life? In your organization?