The Cynic’s Guide to Making Your Meetings Effective

EffectiveMeetngs-page-0
My snapshot of a typical week’s worth of meetings – totally scientific.  

I have spent the better part of my daytime career in meetings, and I am no better for it. If people were compensated by how effective their meetings are, most would be living in cardboard boxes or in a van down by the river.  Even worse, most people don’t seem to care that the way they run meetings sucks.

When I was at Ford, we determined that our division lost upwards of $50k a day on poorly run meetings.  We changed that with intensive training and some simple rules.  I have learned a few things along the way, so allow me to share (in my usual snarky way)…

  • Have an agenda. I recently got back to this.  You don’t have write War and Peace – just a line or two about what the meeting is about.  Are you driving for a decision?  Then state that.
  • Start and end on time. People eventually get the idea that you are being effective. I never start more than two minutes after the scheduled time.  Sorry dude, that’s just how I roll.  Either be there or not – but this train is rolling out of the station.  Starting and ending on time is showing respect to people.
  • Don’t stop to catch someone up. That just burns time.  If that person needs to know what they missed, talk to them one-on-one later.
  • If you don’t have the right people in the meeting – then kill the meeting. If someone says, “We really can’t do it without Joan’s input,” then say you’ll reschedule with Joan.  Corollary:  Invite the right people to the call to begin with.  Don’t invite the whole world.  Invite the minimum number of folks needed to meet the objectives of the call/meeting.
  • Don’t read your PowerPoint deck. It is hard to believe, but most of the people on the call attended school and can read (though sometimes that is questionable with senior leadership.) Your slides should reinforce what you have to say.  And the fewer slides, the better.
  • Document the decision or summary of the meeting. One sentence can do it.
  • Silence does not mean agreement. Whoever the idiot was that first said, “If you’re silent I assume you’re agreeing,” clearly doesn’t understand people.  Sometimes I am quiet because I can’t think of non-swear words to convey my shock and awe at the raw stupidity of what I have just been told.
  • Engage everyone. If you invited people to the call you must want to know what they think.  If they are being quiet, ask them what their perspective is.
  • Facilitate your meeting. There are some people who are just blowhards.  They babble on-and-on just to wear out everyone else.  Keep the meeting on point.  Feel free to time-box discussions.  “We’re going to allow 15 minutes for debate on this subject.”  Personally, I like cutting people off when they are on some rambling tangent – but I’m partially evil.
  • Acknowledge people’s contributions. “Thanks Stephanie – that was a good point you raised.”
  • Schedule your call for the smallest amount of time necessary. We’re all busy.  Don’t schedule an hour for something that should take 20 minutes just because you’re paranoid that Mary is going to pontificate her perspective.  Surprisingly you can get most things done in the time you allot if you run your meeting right.
  • If you check that phone one more time I will break your fingers. You’re not in the meeting to play with your phone.  Shut it off or stuff it in your pocket.

Most of this stuff falls into the category of, “common sense,” but let’s face it, that is a rare commodity in most offices.  Share this with the guiltier members in your team.  There’s a chance they will get a clue and even if they adopt two of these suggestions, you’re ahead of the game.

Want more snarky ideas for work?  Check out my book – Corporate Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  

 

Coping with a Reorganization – A Quick Guide

dwight2
I think I can see the new org chart from here…

Over the decades I’ve become something of an expert on reorganizations.  One, I’ve been in information technology and IT departments LOVE to reorganize.  Sometimes it’s driven by the technologies, sometimes by geography, other times the whims of some madman in leadership who truly believes that the problems are rooted in the org structure (oh you silly leader!) I have a master’s in HR with an emphasis on org design, so I’m often the person that gets pulled in to offer counsel on organization structures.  I’m not saying they always listen to me, but I do get asked which makes me feel good.

Another thing that makes me a relative expert is that I have “survived” roughly 216 1/2 reorganizations in my illustrious career.  “Survived” is a relative term here.  Reorgs have provided me with countless new managers over the years, new career paths (none of which I asked for) and a plethora of angst, a mountain of anguish, insurmountable pain, numerous sleepless nights, and suffering that has left me with a strange facial tick.

Reorganizations are a part of life under the Corporate Overlords.  While painful and time consuming, it is often easier for them than actually fixing the problems their teams struggle with.  Rather than fix it – you make it someone else’s problem.  Issue resolved, right? It doesn’t matter where you work, reorgs are part of the DNA of organizations now.  They can create the illusion of progress while at the same time waste countless hours of productivity and torpedo morale. Even when they have positive outcomes, the process itself is inherently stressful.

As a war-weary correspondent from the reorg-front lines, I offer you the following do’s and don’ts.  I cannot say I always follow my own advice – I am merely human after all. In general, however I DO adhere to these concepts.

What to do:

You have to figure out what is driving the reorganization.  The biggest indicator of how a reorg may play out is the justification that is presented.  Why is this reorg happening in the first place? Is this a cost cutting effort or is the shuffle designed to streamline operations?  Understand that and you may get a good idea of what the future-state structure might look like or alleviate some fears you might have.

Focus on the behaviors you wish to project to the people making decisions.  The short version:  Do your job and do it well.  Nobody wants to be near Sister Stressy.

Support your people.  Yes, you are nervous.  Your team can sense that.  You need to keep them focused and as calm as possible.  You’ll be tempted to not talk about the reorg, but this is a time when you need to engage with your people more than ever.  Be an awesome manager.  Even if you have no idea what is happening, listen to your people and give them time to vent then relax.

Just because your manager is freaking out – doesn’t mean you should. When it comes to reorgs, there are people that are in-the-know, people who don’t know what’s happening, and those that think they are in-the-know and are wetting their beds at night in full panic-mode.  Your manager may have no idea what is going on, so don’t get caught up in their drama.

Tune out the rumors. Every little tension is magnified during a reorg.  People talk and, well, make things up.  Don’t play into the rumor-mill.  Rumors consume time, ratchet-up tension, and divert you from doing things you should be doing.  Better yet, kill the rumors entirely.

Listen.  Listen to your staff, your leaders, just listen.  You will learn more than you think if you simply pay attention and process what you hear.

Remain professional. Assuming you were professional when all of this started…stay the course.  Think about the kind of image you want to project and fake that…fake it hard.

Update your resume’.  This is more psychological than anything else.  It is 50% about being prepared, should the reorg go poorly for you.  The other 50% is that it IS something that you can do, something you have control over.  Take the time to update your CV.

Make sure your manager knows what kinds of opportunities you might be interested in. Reorgs are not all negative.  Many offer new possibilities, new roles, new departments.  Take the time to make sure your manager knows what skills you have and things to be on the lookout for, should opportunities present themselves.

Watch job openings.  This is a little trick of mine that works.  If a reorganization requires new positions, they will sometimes be posted before the formal org chart announcement is made.  I have found that monitoring the job postings for your company can give you some insights as to what might be going on.

Remember, unless they ask for it, no one cares about your little opinion.  Trust me, with my ego, I have an opinion on almost everything. That doesn’t mean I need to share those with leadership in hopes that it will guide their decisions.  In fact, it almost always plays out as a negative when you forced your opinions on them unsolicited.

Trust in what is real. Unless you hear about it officially, it is likely speculation and guesswork. If you get a real “official” org chart or message about the change, well, that’s real and pay attention to it.

Network with your friends to make sure they are not melting down.  This is a good time to be a good colleague.  Help your friends keep an even keel.

Keep in mind that this is not personal, it only impacts you that way.

 

What not to do:

Let the reorganization overpower your performance.  Fretting and wringing your hands is not helping.  Focus on your work, not letting your imagination crank-up your panic levels.

Draw unnecessary attention to yourself.  This is not the time to showboat or flaunt your successes.  It is also a good time to not screw something up.

Overreact.  Just like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says:  Don’t Panic. It upsets your staff when you curl up in a fetal position on a video conference call.  This is a time to remain level-headed and demonstrate that you have things under control.  Corollary to this:  Don’t whine.  No one likes the whiner.

Try to read between the lines in communications.  There’s no hidden clues.  I have watched people tear apart a communication about a reorg, attempting to see if there is some coded message that tells what leadership is thinking.  Trust me, your senior leaders are not smart enough to hide clever Easter Eggs in their emails to telegraph their intentions with a reorganization.

Try to force your way into the process.  “I’m going to call up so-and-so and let them know how I think this should be handled.”  Yeah, that’s a horrible idea.  Even if you have a legitimate reason to need to know the results of a reorg, the leaders often cringe when you try and force your way into the room.  A corollary to this:  Don’t demand anything from leadership.  Ultimatums are a definite no-no during a reorg.  You are in a position to demand nothing when it comes to a reorganization effort.

Turn on your colleagues.  We’ve all seen it before.  It’s the corporate equivalent of the film Gladiator when its reorg time.  Managers turn on each other in some bizarre thought that this is battle to the death, complete with Star Trek fight music for a background.  It’s not.  You don’ t make yourself more desirable by slamming your peers.  You only come across as a douchebag.

Change your personal plans.  “Maybe I should cancel my planned vacation.”  Here’s the deal, the reorg will happen if you are there or on the beach or in a hospital bed.  Often times there are delays etc., so trying to guess when exact word will come from on-high down about the results of a reorg is at best, an inexact science.

Try and get ahead of the reorg effort.  I had a manager who thought he understood what a looming reorg was and tried to beat it to the punch, restructuring our team according to his “vision.”  The result – he was wrong – and we ended up reorging twice as a result.  There’s only one thing that sucks more than one reorg…and that’s two reorgs.  Don’t be that guy/gal.

Job hop to avoid the change.  Unless you know for absolute assurance that you are going to be negatively impacted by a reorg, don’t try and jump ship.  Making a job change because of fear is a bad thing to do…if that is your prime motivator.  Not matter what assurances you may think exist, you could be taking on a new role only to get reorganized anyway…at that point lacking the experience in-job to help solidify your position.

Rewrite your job descriptions.  Some reorganizations are top-down driven.  They start with the senior leadership structure and work downward.  More rare reorgs are bottom-up, looking at what roles are needed and where at the grass roots level.  Rewriting your job descriptions to try and position your staff one way or another is often a waste of time, especially if the effort is top down.  Don’t try and beat the system here…it is often seen for what it is, cheating.

Gossip or guess.  Spreading potential misinformation can work against you if the wrong people find out.  Don’t be part of a chain.  Listen?  Yes.  Spread gossip?  No.

Hire non-essential people.  Hiring someone in and then telling them three weeks later that their job and reporting structure may be changing is just plain mean.  At minimum, anyone you’re hiring in needs to know that the department is being reorged so they can factor that into their decision.  Think of it this way – would you like to know the situation before you had to make a decision?  There you go.

Dig your heels in.  Resistance to change is natural, expected, fruitless, stressful and a waste of energy.  No single employee has ever successfully derailed a reorg effort, so trying is just frustrating for you.  There’s always a lot of reasons to not change, but that doesn’t mean that the change is going to stop.  The concept that you are mounting some sort of gallant resistance effort against the will of the Corporate Overlords plays well in your head and havoc with your career.  You will not wear down the will of the organization to bend to your way of thinking.  The sooner you try and adapt and demonstrate your willingness to accept change, the better things will be.

Now, if you need some chuckles during this entire process – I recommend the following links:

The Resume’ We All Wish We’d Written

Funny Job Titles

Humorous Org Structure

or you can check out my book – Business Rules – the Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords. 

 

Office Humor – The Resume’ We All Wish We’d Written

jimh
Best Employee Ever

I recently updated my resume’ for the 432nd time in my career.  I do it from time-to-time, just so that it is fresh.  I believe in being prepared at any moment for a new opportunity.

As I finished the task, I started thinking, wouldn’t it be funny to put together a “real world” resume’ that describes jobs as many of them really are?  It would have to be snarky and mostly agnostic to any industry or business.

This is the result.  This is pure fiction – not based at all on my real-world experiences or employers.  Stop trying to read into this – it’s just a bit of creative exercise on my part. It is designed not to slam any particular organization but to offer you all a chuckle or two while activating my humor-oriented brain cells…nothing more.

 Wild “Buck” Pardoe

1313 Mockingbird Lane
Hooterville, Virginia 20106
555-555-1212  (please ring twice, hang up, then call back)
Emails:  corporateoverlords@gmail.com
Sellingflowersontheexitramp@aol.com

Career Goals: 

A little late for that, don’t you think?  I’m 54 – the  USS Career Goals set sail a long time ago.  Let me worry about that shit – okay?  Just be thankful I’m applying.

Core Attributes:

  • A complete willingness to sell out my few battered remaining principles (not values) to remain gainfully employed.
  • A marginal and often offensive sense of humor which endears me to co-workers of the same ilk and makes me the bane of upper management.
  • An innate ability to detect workplace bullshit and point it out for others amusement and entertainment.
  • A solid understanding of the accounting principles behind and the current balance of my 401K account.

2001 – Present  Position:  Artful Dodger

In this capacity, per my manager, I was responsible for:

  • Getting my manager promoted at the expense of my own dwindling career aspirations.
  • Covering up senior leadership failures, shortcomings, and outright blunders.
  • Producing PowerPoint decks describing the work I wasn’t actually doing because I was busy producing PowerPoint slides.
  • Offer tacit, usually convincing agreement to any lame idea that management put forth.

In my role I successfully create the illusion of offering value to the organization, whilst maintaining a low enough profile to avoid the random waves of layoffs, rightsizings, redistribution of staff, staffing/operating model alterations, or other excuses to reduce the workforce. I was the survivor/victim of eight reorganizations, seven-ish indiscriminate managers forced to take me on, and 48 random changes in strategic direction – all of which I handled with the bare minimum of professionalism and above average cynicism.  The fact that I actually got work down during this period speaks well for my ability to tune out rhetoric/distractions and the strength and effectiveness of the medications that I am on for chronic depression.

I recently honed my leadership skills playing Call of Duty 4, which I treated as meeting the organization’s “required online training” annual goal.  I consumed copious amounts of caffeine and food stolen leftovers from office lunch meetings as my primary means of subsidence during the workday.  My teaming skills were best demonstrated during this period of my career when my Dungeons & Dragons party killed Vorloff, an ancient red dragon, which as you all know is no small feat for sixth level characters, especially a party that was short of a cleric.  I believe these skills carried me well at work as I often am called upon to slay ancient ridiculous ideas.

My competency in meeting attendance and generating the impression that I care about the subject matter is unparalleled.  I am often seen as contributing to the topic at hand when in reality I am often simply restating what someone else has already said.

In the last year along I was chucked under the bus on six projects for pointing out that the lack of sponsorship, leadership, and common sense.   As such I have gained new perspectives on scapegoating and deflecting blame which I believe is grooming me for future success. I have also learned the intricacies of bus transmission systems – so I have that going for me.

I work well under pressure, which is more of a survival tactic than a true business skill.  I have demonstrated an ability in forming teams of peers in cooperative/collaborative work groups; mostly so we can share our mutual misery and gripe about our lack of opportunities and personal growth.  We have formed a shadow-organization (we call ourselves the Legion of Doom) in our department, ensuring that information is shared between teams and that quality is maintained, mostly because the formal communication channels and leaders are so horribly broken, it was necessary.  We essentially are running the entire department under the radar or knowledge of management.  As such we are secretly “keeping the lights on” in our organization, despite the efforts of leadership to hamstring our efforts.  Our determination to keep things operating speaks to the fact that management has not yet fully shattered our souls, spirits, and dreams.  We call that, “Winning!”

Clearly I am one of the smartest individuals on most of the teams I work on but that is only in comparison to my peers and their general level of apathy.  Another perspective on this:  Our recruiting techniques leave a great deal to be desired. Being perceived as more intelligent than average has proven to be a strong asset and useful in preventing my career from advancing.

I have recently learned how to deflect my own personal failings onto others, which has streamlined project reporting by 46.8%.  I have also learned the importance of generating random data points (such as the percentage above) to create the impression that I have actually calculated things out precisely.   You bought it – right?

Delegating the majority of my work and a general cynical perspective is also a suite of activities that I openly embrace and have perfected.

My communications skills are on-par with anyone that has been wearing a straightjacket and confined to a padded cell (cubicle) for the last 15 years.  My power to lace my messages with ISA’s (Important Sounding Acronyms) creates a sense of comfort with many managers in the department.

I work on global teams meaning I’m expected to take meetings at bizarre, often inhuman times and smile while doing it.  I not only must interpret what others are saying in six different languages, but I have to fake caring for the same.

I bring this, “please don’t smother me in my sleep” attitude to your new opportunity!

1995-2001   Position: Target of Mid-Level Management Abuse

Assembled and led numerous teams composed of contributors with marginal interpersonal skills, weak communications competencies, non-existent leadership skills, questionable technical abilities, and incredibly (some astronomically) large egos.  Some individuals I teamed with were not only fugitives from the law of averages, but they lacked an understanding of basic physics or the ability to count above the number ten.  While I managed these interpersonal challenges, I also coordinated an abnormal number of budget cuts, weekly changing priorities, and scope-creep which was so monumental that it was deserving of some sort of award.

In this capacity, I also suffered the slings and arrows of leadership’s abuse for not delivering on time, despite all of the factors outlined above.  The fact that I am still alive today is testament to my recollection of where the bodies are buried.

In this role, I organized the confused; aligned the diverse; educated the ignorant; calmed the irrational; covered for the incompetent; baffled the leaders; exceeded the unreasonable; navigated the confusing; quelled a tempest-level-shitstorm of frustration; led the brain-damaged; diffused the frustrated;  and documented progress where it didn’t exist.  I am pleased to say I earned a solid three-out-of-five performance rating (Meets Expectations!) of which, I am exceedingly proud.  To say that this provided me with an exceeding amount of motivation would be an understatement.

I traveled on business trips to such exciting locales as Cleveland, Ohio in the winter and Newark, New Jersey in the summer.  While peers padded their frequent flyer and credit card point accounts I simply longed to return home.  I participated in numerous after-hours, mandatory teaming events.  These were highly useful in identifying the boot-lickers in the department and I became adept at pretending these events were “fun.”

While performing these duties my “teams” successfully implemented obsolete technology, marketing it as “bleeding edge” stuff to our end-users.  My willingness to subscribe to this blatant lie while totally selling out my professional principles clearly put me on the leadership path in my career. I have so adopted this lack-of-spine-state that I no longer can discern between reality and fiction…which has served me well over the years.  I also developed the competency of identifying both smoke and mirrors in other’s representations of their work.

Thank God I discovered social media during this stage of my life as it occupies a great deal of my thinking during the day.  I post under several different identities just to confuse our information security department.

Summary:   I saw this as my “deconstruction” years of my career.

1990-1995  Position:  Idealistic/Foolish Dreamer

When I started here, I cared. Then things changed, about an hour after employee orientation. Our organization’s motto should have been a clue:  “Give us six months and we will devour your mortal soul.”

In this role my responsibilities included, but were not limited to:  Attending meetings for which I had no idea why I was there; listening to my manager rant about how stupid her manager was; having my job change six times in the first two years for absolutely no reason; and watched as others who were not able to tie their own shoes were skyrocketed above me because of their skills at kissing ass.  This was an enlightening experience that prepared me for a mid-level management position…just enough authority to be dangerous, all of the responsibility, but none of the authority.

While lesser people might have packed their bags and quit, I developed a “Can-do!” attitude.  Once leadership took note of that I was appropriately disciplined and ordered to replace “Can-do!” with “Shut-the-fuck-up-and-suck-it-up!”  This completed my management orientation period and made me feel as if I had sold my soul for a bi-weekly paycheck.  I would feel guilty about it if not for the scars that I have earned.

I became a harvester of other people’s bad decisions, though in fairness, most of these decisions were simply dumped on my desk to resolve.  I innovated several reporting dashboards that upper management demands on a weekly basis but has not used actual data in the last two years.  I consider this part of my “innovation” skill-suite.

Hobbies and Interests:

I am currently am exploring taking up chronic alcoholism and am working to get my name on the Do Not Fly List so I no longer have to do business travel to exciting locations such as Newark, New Jersey or Cleveland, Ohio.  Several people recently have asked, “Are you smoking crack?” so I am also considering taking that up as well.

Based on a documentary I watched called Breaking Bad, I believe I might start up my own meth-lab.  It has to be safer than working in my current role – and potentially more rewarding.  If that doesn’t work, I hope to be the subject of a Netflix Documentary, “Workplace Shooter – the Buck Pardoe Story.”

Thanks to my career, I have become proficient at cutting myself; making shanks in my spare time; and taking up amateur tattooing.

I am also a semi-pro astronaut, a licensed walrus castrator, and a notary.

Willing to Relocate!

Humorous Work Horoscopes for February 2017

zodiac

I saw a funny horoscope online the other day and started thinking about how cool it would be to have a humorous horoscope of snarky one-liners that are quasi-business/work related.   Alright, “cool” probably isn’t the right word…please play along.

So, I have prepared a year’s worth and will be putting them out monthly (I hope). Here’s the first one for February – all set to be pinned to your cubicle wall.

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It is likely that this horoscope is as accurate as any out there, and this one is designed to make you smile.

You can download the PDF from here if that is more to your liking:  february-calendar

Enjoy!  If you liked that, check out my book, Business Rules – the Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords  

Office Humor – Technology Support Model

supportmodel
A universal model for technology support 

A friend and I were talking at work about how we need to have one model for support for tools and stuff.  That got me thinking about how generic support has become.  Back “in the day” we used to do a lot more pure troubleshooting – using your general knowledge and instincts to resolve problems.  In recent years in the industry there is a push to make support a commodity…making the experience the same for everyone trumped good old fashioned “stand back and let me work my fucking magic.”  Scripts with procedural steps that drive you insane are turning good techs into guys and gals that read scripts.

Don’t feed me that bull about, “this makes for a consistent experience.”  This is actually about moving support to low-cost locations.  It also sucks from a customer satisfaction perspective.  Have you ever called for support on something like your internet connectivity at home?  All of us reboot the modem before we call, we know that’s a step.  But when you get Comcast (in some exotic land) on the call, they tell you to do it.  “I already did – move to the next step.”  “I am sorry sir – I am required to make you do it.”  Sidebar:  I lie to them, tell them that I am rebo0ting – just because I can and hate the idiocy of the process.

So, I started thinking about the most generic support model every tech support can use. This is draft and aimed at making you smile – especially my friends in support.  Enjoy the image above!

 

Office Humor: If IT People Wrote Recipes

I was working on a quick reference card for a new IT project and had an exchange with a colleague on the level of instruction needed.  Me – I like to believe end-users have some basic awareness of technology.  We don’t live in 1994 any longer.  I have confidence in our end-users.  Far too often, IT operations concentrate on not generating help desk calls as opposed to writing things that are basically end user friendly.  This person disagreed (incorrectly) with my thinking.  I used a metaphor of a baking a cake and he seemed to understand my perspective – and hence, this spoof was born.

I pick on IT departments because I work in one.  This is not generally reflective of the company I currently work in – I’ve heard this complaint from a lot of end-users in the Federal Government and private sectors.  Time has come for those of us in the industry to remember that we need to prepare our documentation for the end-users, not in spite of them.

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I give you: If IT people wrote recipes

Baking a Chocolate Cake – A simple four step process

Before you begin this baking process:  Make sure you have all of the ingredients and that they are still fresh.  Please check all expiration dates.  Also you need to confirm your oven is in good working order (you can use self-help to troubleshoot any hardware issues you may have.)  Reminder:  Ovens of any type are unsupported hardware and repaired only on a best-effort basis.  You will also need to know the altitude that you are cooking at and refer to Quick Reference Guide #427 – Baking Temperatures Conversions Card by Altitude).   Please note that the Help Desk cannot determine your altitude above sea-level – that is your own responsibility.

All utensils and bowls must be clean prior to starting the Mixing Process.  IMPORTANT:  If you have lactose or gluten allergies please check with the help desk before you initiate this recipe to obtain a list of approved substitutes.

Further, the company is not held responsible for any cross-contamination that may occur as a result of improperly cleaned utensils.  Please refer to the self-help portal for proper utensil cleaning processes.  Should you have any allergic reactions, please do not contact local office support – but contact your own personal health care provider.  Note: Support staff do not stock EpiPens, these are personal expense health-care items subject to Company Policy 34-556-HC for reimbursement.

The process flow:

Baking a cake follows this basic flow (Diagram 1A):

cake-flow

Step 1

Refer to the table below for the items necessary to complete the baking (and decorating) of a cake.

 

Table A – Required Ingredients

Item Unit of Measurement or Notes: Software Hardware
Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate 10 ounces (used for both the cake and for the optional frosting) X
Miracle Whip Dressing 1.5 cups X
Packed brown sugar 2.25 cups X
Vanilla (liquid form – not a bean itself) 1 Tablespoon X
Eggs (Grade A), Source: Chicken (Hen) 3 individual eggs, classified as Grade A, un-cracked, white. X
Baking Soda (Processed sodium bicarbonate) 1.5 Teaspoons X
Salt (Processed sodium chloride) .25 Teaspoons X
Powdered Sugar 3 cups X
Water (boiling – i.e. elevated to the temperature of 100 °C or 212 °F for a sustained period of time) 1 cup X
One conventional non-convection or microwave oven Note:  May be electric or gas powered.  If you are unsure as to the source of heat please refer to the Oven Operations Manual provided by the manufacturer X
A bowls or other sturdy watertight container Two bowls are required.  Three-quarters or more capacity for the entire suite of ingredients above.  Note:  Mixing bowls do not have to be identical (i.e. the same hardware configuration or color pattern.) X
Measuring utensil 1 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil .5 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil .25 cup capacity X
Measuring utensil A teaspoon X
Measuring utensil A tablespoon X
Measuring utensil A whisk or other approved mixing utensil X
Measuring utensil .666 cup capacity X
Apron (for safety) Size varies to the size of the user.  Please exercise caution when selecting the appropriate apron. X
Metallic Cake pans Two – Nine inches in diameter X
Non-flammable Oven mitts Two.  Note: These are not to be confused with flammable oven mitts which are not recommended for this procedure. X
Two toothpicks One is required, the second toothpick is a packup.  Note:  These must be wooden toothpicks, pine preferably. X
Parchment Paper Two-nine inch disks of parchment paper.  Note:  The paper comes in a container where the paper is rectangular and the end-user is responsible for cutting the paper to fit the cake pans.
Knife Butter, non-edged, metallic X
Spoon Metallic (optional) X
OPTIONAL INGRIDIENTS  
Butter or margarine (end-user choice) .25 Cups X
Powdered sugar 3 Cups X
Milk, Source: Cow, Pasteurized .666 Cups X

Once all ingredients have been properly inventoried they should be laid out on a flat clean surface with easy access for the end-user to utilize them.  A good lighting source should be available as well.  “Clean surface” as defined as one that has been fully disinfected and cleansed with company approved cleaning products (full list available on the self-help portal).

 

Step 2

2.1  Stand before the fully operational oven.  Utilizing the oven heating controls, activate the heating element for your oven to a temperature of 350°F.  Make sure oven door is fully closed before beginning this step.  Overheating or under-heating the hardware can result in a failed cake deployment.

2.2 Melt six ounces of the chocolate as directed on the rear of the package.  Note:  These are outsourced vendor steps provided with the software and the company is not responsible for their changes.  Chocolate, depending on the vendor, may have break-away sections for ounces.  Please select your chocolate vendor with this in mind.   Warning:  Do not attempt to taste unsweetened chocolate – it is not like eating a candy bar in this uninstalled state.

2.3 Carefully measure and pour the dressing, brown sugar, and two tablespoons of vanilla into the bowl.  For those unfamiliar with how to measure using the utensils please consult the Quick Reference Guide to “Measurement – you can do it!” on the self-help portal.  Utilizing the whisk or power mixer, intermix these ingredients until they are of a consistent texture, color, and fluidity.  Slowly rotate the bowl during this process to ensure a consistency with that material which may cling to the edges.  NOTE:  Do not taste the contents of the bowl during this stage of the implementation.

2.4  Take the eggs and gently tap them along the long edge of the egg on the lip or edge of the bowl, one at a time, until a fine crack forms on the outer shell.  Using both hands opposite of the crack, hyperextend the surface of the egg shell and pull apart, forming an apex opposite of the crack.  This should separate the shell into two distinct halves with the contents of the eggs falling out.  Note:  This should be done over the bowl so as to capture the contents into the mixture.

cracking-eggs-01
Correctly
wrong-way-egg
An unsupported and not recommended approach

2.5  Add in the flour, baking soda and salt in the measurements defined the Table A above.

2.6  As per previous instructions above, utilizing the whisk or power mixer, blend these contents together – again aiming for a consistency in color and texture.

2.7  Slowly introduce the melted chocolate into the mixture and continue to mix until the point where the chocolate has been fully drained into the bowl and intermixed with the remaining ingredients.  The approximate pour rate of one ounce of melted chocolate per 45 seconds of stirring.  Estimated overall time for this mixing is 6.25 minutes assuming a whip-rate of 46 beats per minute using a hand-whisk.  If end-users are utilizing a power mixer for this stage of the intermix, please consult the power mixing time ratio conversion chart in the self-help portal.

The final solution of mixed materials is referred to as “batter” and should have a color close to this sample:

Batter Sample Color Comparison Illustration 1:

brown

2.8  Place the cut parchment paper in the bottom of the metallic cake pans.  Please unsure that the paper is placed in the bottom and not the sides or top of the pans as this will prove less-than-effective and may cause a crash of your implementation.

2.9  Pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the two nine-inch metallic cake pans.  It is important that the amount of the mixed contents going into each pan should be nearly the same – or as close as possible.  Failure to get the amounts correctly balanced volume-wise between the two pans can result in inconsistent cooking of the contents and may impact the taste of the final product.

Step 3

3.1  Open the oven door carefully, so as to avoid touching any of the interior metallic surfaces as they are hot.  Reminder:  Heat can damage skin tissue and appropriate caution is recommended during this entire stage of the baking process.  Also items placed in the oven become hot and can damage tissue as well.  If you are unsure of how heat works, please consult the self-help portal.

3.2  Take the two pans and place them on the centermost rack of the oven.  The centermost rack is that rack which is positioned close to the virtual vertical center of the available cooking space; or on the rack on the center setting given the rack guides along the interior sides of the oven.  The pans must be slid in far enough so that the door can be closed without making contact with them.  The pans should not be stacked on top of each other but placed side-by-side horizontally on the rack, allowing for easier access.  Note:  When placing the pans do so in a manner that they are upright, holding the mixed contents, as opposed to upside down where the contents flow out of them and onto the cooking elements or the bottom of the cooking space.

3.3  Close the oven door carefully.

3.4  Set a timer for 30 minutes.  Some ovens come installed with an in-built application and control surface that has a hardware-based timer as part of their configuration.  The use of this timer is recommended for experienced users.  Otherwise another timer (including your smart mobile device) can be used.  It is important to set the timer immediately after the oven pans have been properly placed inside the oven and the door is closed.  If you wait several minutes before starting the timing processes, the cake end-product could be overcooked and inedible.  Note:  It may be easier to set the timer by removing your non-flammable oven mitts.  It is safe to do so at this time.  Please do not discard these reusable assets; retain your oven mitts for use in Step 4 however.  Warning: jarring action on your floor may upset the baking batter and cause the cake to “fall.”  This is deemed to be operator error.  During the baking stage (three) it is recommended that you do not use this time for jarring activities such as jumping jacks, working with a hydraulic lift, slamming doors in the kitchen, bouncing a basketball, etc.  IT cannot be held responsible for fallen cakes due to operator error.

3.5  When the timer goes off, after thirty minutes per step 3.4 above, disengage or disable it using the appropriate keystroke combination.

3.6  Take one of the toothpicks and hold it near one end so that the pick is vertical with the majority of the toothpick pointing downward.  Carefully open the oven door.  Note:  The door and everything in the oven is hot and can harm you if contact is made.  Using one of the nonflammable oven mitts, slide the rack with the cake pans out eight inches.  Using the toothpick as a spear, thrust it gentling into the approximate center of the cake for no more than one second, then extract it (carefully avoiding contact with any metallic surfaces inside of the oven.  Visually inspect the toothpick.  It should come out with none of the mixed batter on it.

3.7  If any quasi-liquid batter is on the toothpick, slide the oven rack back into place and set the timer for two minutes per step 3.4.  Then repeat Steps 3.5 and 3.6 until the toothpick comes out free of batter residue.

3.8  Once the toothpick is removed and is free of residual batter, the toothpick may be discarded.

3.9  Immediately shut off the oven using the power toggle switch or turn the appropriate control.  Please consult your appropriate oven owner’s manual for controls for your specific hardware.

Step 4

4.1  Put on your nonflammable oven mitts and carefully open the oven.  Firmly grasp the sides of one of the cake pans and side it off of the rack, putting it on a nonflammable surface or on top of the stove portion of your oven.  Keep the cakes upright, do not rotate the pans during this stage of the process.  Note:  There should be no more than a one minute time lag between steps 3.9 and 4.1. A timer is not required as this is considered a general guideline.

4.2  Repeat process 4.1 with the second cake pan, putting it near or next to the first pan.  Note:  Proximity between the two pans is not vital during this stage of the process.

4.3  Carefully close the oven door and remove the nonflammable oven mitts.

4.4.  In the second, unused mixing bowl, add the remaining chocolate to the butter.  Place the bowl in a microwave oven.  Close the door.  Set the timer to 1.5 minutes.  When the heating is completed, open the door, remove the bowl, and then close the door to the microwave oven.

4.5  Mix the material in the mixing bowl.  As it cools (3.25 minutes later) add in three cups of powdered sugar from the optional ingredients list along with .666 cups of milk.  Using a spoon or a clean whisk, stir the contents vigorously.  The contents of this bowl are henceforth referred to as the frosting – an optional ingredient for the cake.

4.6  One at time, take the cake pans and gently rotate them on an axis where they are upside down.  Note:  This should be done at a low altitude over a clean surface.  The cakes should come out of the pan.  Important:  Remove the parchment paper.  Then, carefully and gently rotate the cakes back to their original position identical to how they would have been placed in the metallic cake pans.

4.7  Using the knife, you should begin to take small quantities of the frosting and apply it to one of the cakes.  This cake will serve as a the bottom layer of the cake, using accepted nomenclature.  The frosting should be applied to the top and sides so as to prove a film completely and smoothly surrounding the lower cake layer on the top and sides (not on the bottom).

4.8  Take the remaining cake layer and gently place it on top of the frosted cake layer, aligning the edges so that it is vertically symmetrical with the lower layer.

4.9  Repeat step 4.7 on the top layer of the cake.  Extra time should be spent to smooth the sides of the two layers so they appear as a cohesive and merged combination, with the frosting material used to hide any defects or crevasses between the two layers.

4.10  Place the cake in a refrigerator set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2.5 hours or more.

Photograph 3:  A cake

your-results-may-differ
A fully installed and deployed cake.  Your results may vary

Post Cooking Activities

5.1  Discard the toothpicks and parchment paper.  While we are a Green company these elements are generally considered non-reusable expendables during this process.

5.2  Any unused hardware should be inventoried and returned the appropriate storage space.  Note:  Placing the hardware in non-traditional or inaccurate space can result in possible fines, levies, and even a modicum of verbal abuse on the part of your spouse or significant other…all fully justified.

5.3  Any unused frosting may be consumed using the applicator-knife.  Note:  If you have blood sugar issues please consult with your physician before consumption of the remains.

5.4  Clean all used hardware utilizing the approved Quick Reference Guide – Maintenance and Cleaning of Household Kitchen Hardware.

 

At this stage your cake should be fully installed and the frosting implemented. Congratulations.

 

Important:  The company is not responsible for any weight gains or changes to your BMI as a result of you eating the cake you have created.   Also, any allergies related to food products – i.e. gluten, diary, chocolate, etc. are the responsibility of the end-user to manage and may be contradictory to the materials included in this recipe. Please see the appropriate legal disclaimer on the self-help portal.

Real-Life Causes of Workplace Stress

dwight
Don’t be a Dwight

I had a boss once brag that, “I don’t have stress – I’m a carrier.”  When he boasted that, it took a monumental amount of restraint to not say, “Actually, you’re a douchebag.”  Stress is a reality of work.  As such, it was finally time for me to tackle the subject…in my usually snarky fashion.  Strap in and prepare for the ride…

I was going to lead off with the traditional causes of stress at work… you know the usual culprits:

  • Things I want to do but can’t.
  • People’s values and actions clash with my own.
  • Things don’t meet my expectations.

Yawn.  I almost put myself to sleep.  While quasi-accurate, these reasons are too high level and lack the kick necessary to detail true sources of workplace stress.  As such, here is my attempt at a comprehensive list – in an unranked order.   These have come from a lot of different sources, friends in other organizations, etc.  Don’t try and attribute these to my current employer…

Project managers with no sense of reality. “Seriously, do you own a calendar?”

Deadlines that are just pulled out of someone’s ass.  “Why November 13th?”  “Why not?”  “It’s a Sunday.”  “I don’t care, that’s the date I chose.”  “I understand, you’re a dick.”

Colleagues that cook food that reeks in the office kitchenette.   “What is that smell, garlic roasted lizard scrotum?”

Mandatory social events after hours.  In fact, mandatory-anything contributes to my stress level.

When IT staff uses technical lingo for the sake of using technical lingo.  “Stop creating acronyms to sound intelligent!”

People that use shared workspaces and leave it in a mess.  “What did you do here – surgery?”

Individuals that swap out a defective office chair for mine.

Anyone involved with stocking office supplies.  “Are you a time traveler from the past?  A dozen three-hole punches?  Three-ring binders?  Ledger sheets?  I need a binder maybe once every ten years.  How about stocking some pens, paper, and maybe a thumb-drive?”

Technology people that blame problems on end-user ignorance.  “It works fine, you’re just too stupid to use it or realize how great it really is.”

Any conversation about internally branding anything.  “I could seriously go the rest of my life without hearing the word ‘branding.’

Project teams deliberately set up in five different global time zones.  “Our team call is at 5am because we don’t own a globe or access the internet.”

Co-workers who schedule meetings without consideration for anything I have in my calendar.  “You do see that I am not available in that time slot, don’t you—moron?”

Managers who make arbitrary decisions about people’s careers without discussing it with them. “I’m moving you to Dawn’s team – surprise!”

Leaders who reorganize more than twice a year.  “You know, after fifteen of these, it might dawn on you that the problem isn’t how the team is structured – it’s the fact you keep shuffling them around that is the problem.”

Individuals that say, “You own your own career.”

People that only try and put a positive spin on things.  “Some honesty would go a long way here.”

Any steering group.  “That’s all I need, another group giving me conflicting directions…”

Budgeting.  “I resent you asking me what I need, then cutting it by 34.8%.  It’s not ironic, it’s irritating.”

Anyone asking for my feedback and ignoring it.

Smoking areas that are the entrance to buildings where we non-smoker’s must wade through.

People who think Sharepoint is a solution to any problem.   “Sharepoint is the origin of many problems.”

People who ignore me when I say, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I were you…”

(This one is totally mine.)  People who critique my business writing.  I’m not perfect, but I’ve had a little bit more writing experience than you.

IFAC—Idiots from another company.  Consultants or brand new employees who brag about knowing a great deal on a subject, but have no idea how your organization works. This makes their expertise less-than-useful.

Anyone exposing leadership to a buzzword/acronym program.  Management is drawn to a buzzword program like vultures to dead possums. I still have scars from TQM in the 1990’s.

Anyone with unpredictable explosive temper.  “Seriously, that was the thing that set you off?”

Any implemented improvement that makes it ten times worse.

Coworkers that take up smoking to avoid spending time at work.

Performance review discussions where we are going to talk about my career.

A mandatory meeting that doesn’t have to be mandatory at all.

Required learning with a test at the end that no human could pass.   “Please pick the second least desirable or inaccurate response…”

People who are off sick, but posting images of themselves out having fun on Facebook.  “Gee, you don’t look feverish at the amusement park.”

Processes put in place just to make a team seem more important than they are.

Team leaders who attempt to apply Agile or Six Sigma principles on teams that have no idea what they are talking about. “No one cares about your black belt.  In fact, we may strangle you with it.  We have a plan…”

Individuals that trash the office bathroom.  “Seriously do you just throw paper on the floor at home?  And what you did to the toilet could only be described with the phrase, ‘war crime.’”

Any theme day in the cafeteria.  “I just want a hamburger for God’s sake.  I don’t care that it is Festival of Bolivian Afternoon Snacks Day.”

Rules that only seem to apply to me.

Requests for feedback from people I barely know.  “I don’t even remember you being on that project.  In fact, who are you?”

People that invite the entire world to every conference call.

Managers that think learning, all by itself, is a solution to a managerial issue (or lack of leadership).  “You presume that I am ignorant.  I am not.  I’m just ignoring you.  Big difference.”

Skype for Business.

When someone asks for my opinion then spends an hour trying to tell me that I am wrong to have that opinion.  “You lost me at the word ‘wrong’…”

Assigning me a task when I wasn’t even invited to the meeting.  “Really?  What if I say, ‘no’?”

Status reports for people who won’t or can’t read.

Contributing to any dashboard.

Namedroppers that think I care.  “You’ve mentioned Bob’s name three times.  I know who he is.  I’m not just impressed with your argument.”

When someone randomly insists on using video conferencing and I’m wearing my Captain America tee-shirt at home.  Honestly, I don’t even try and explain it anymore. One person asked me once, “what’s that you’re wearing?”  My response:  “My uniform.  I fight crime starting at 5pm.”

Any PowerPoint slide that uses more than five conflicting graphic elements or is so confusing that it disrupts space-time one foot from the computer where it is being shown.  “Go to the next slide – holy crap – you’re warping the space here in the conference room!”

Any solution involving, “throwing more bodies at it.”  “You can’t put nine pregnant women in the room and have a baby in a month.”

Not starting meetings on time.  “So, you don’t respect my time.”

Not ending meetings on time. “So, you don’t respect other people’s time too.  What a douche!”

Scheduling a meeting for something that could have been handled in a short email.

Forced volunteer work aimed at making your organization seen more hip.  “So, you want me to go and plant trees?  So mental and emotional punishment isn’t enough, you want the physical kind too?”

Any business trip through Newark International Airport.  “EWR’s Motto:  We top 3% on-time arrivals and departures most months of the year!”

When my manager refers to me as “evil.”  True story.  “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Team building activities after hours. “If it is so important we all get along, why not do it during work hours?”

Anyone asking for a deliverable that requires time travel.  “My time machine is for personal use, not because you can’t manage your project.”

Coworkers that, by default, assume everyone is more stupid than they are.  “That sir, is my job!”

Fear and speculation of layoffs, RIF’s, right-sizing, people being made redundant, etc.

Any project that has a misleading code-name.  Example:  Streak, Lightning Bolt, Fast & Furious, Slam Dunk.

Anytime the company seeks to “improve” the employee benefits.

People that show up late to the meetings and stop the gathering so that they can be brought up to speed.

When a new technology tool is implemented that really doesn’t solve a problem.

When everything at work is a high priority or “Priority One.”  “You do realize that when you do that, you’re not really setting priorities – right?”

Co-workers that text during meetings.  “Put the fuc*ing phone away.”

When management says one thing and does another.

Email message addressed to everyone that should be addressed to a handful people.

People whose entire job is to enforce pointless rules.

People who take meeting calls from Starbucks or Panera.  “Dude, I can hear the Barista in the background.”

Leaders who add requirements to a project three weeks before the unrealistic deadline.  “You are not being ironic, you’re being an ass.”

Any crisis that isn’t.  I learned how to identify real crisis’s early in my career.  Apparently I am on my own in that regard.

When routine technology fails.

When someone assumes a level of ignorance on my part that isn’t there.

Security overkill. “Why do I have to change my password every two weeks?”  “Why not?  Are you hiding something?”

When a leader tries to force a new technology on you because they think it’s trendy.

The annual performance review process.

When management sends out a message to save money by cutting travel costs – while they are at an out-of-the-country meeting.  “Clearly I am the problem…”

When I volunteer to do something and am told no.  “Why did you ask for volunteers in the first place?”

Managers who get survey results and spend hours tearing them apart attempting to invalidate them or convince me that a low number is actually a good thing.

The battery on any device.  “Crap – my Bluetooth just died.”

Weekend or late-night meetings.

Any meeting that kicks off with the person who called the meeting saying, “So why did I schedule this meeting?”

When that thing you have worked on for the last year of your life is cancelled three weeks before it was to be completed.

Anyone who says, “We don’t need to get the senior leaders on-board with this concept.”

When my routine business expense that I have submitted the same way a dozen times is rejected.  “This is Einstein’s definition of insanity.”

People who misuse the word “risk.”  “You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When real life clashes with work life.  Technically it is when work attempts to override my real life.  “Oddly enough I do not live to work – I work to live.”  In my case, couple this with, “My life outside of this place is infinitely more interesting and entertaining than this cubicle-padded mental hospital.”

Leaders that make up facts.  “Our people are buried in surveys.”  “Um, we do two a year.  How exactly does that constitute buried?”

When the annual promotion list is put out.  Three letters and a question mark sum up my reaction to at least 20% of promotions…WTF?

When individuals misuse the word “strategy.”  “If you change it every six months, it isn’t strategic – it’s tactical.”

When someone ignores my expertise, experience, and skills because they perceive themselves as smarter.  “You don’t want to go there and force me to explain why you are less-intelligent or experienced as I am.”

The cancellation of meetings with no notice – even worse when they are at 7am or earlier.  “There is a special hell for you robbing me of 20 minutes of sleep.  It is dark, deep and filled with evil…”

The annual goal setting ritual.  “Light the candles and put on the robes…it’s time to make some stuff up.”

Watching someone else kiss butt with upper management.  “Why don’t you two get a room?”

People with no sense of humor.  If you made it this far, I think you qualify with having a sense of humor.

I’m sure you have some of your own – so add them to the comments list.  And don’t forget to purchase my book – Business Rules.