Arranging Your Team

“A sadist, a masochist, a murderer, a necrophile, a zoophile and a pyromaniac are all sitting on a bench in a mental institution.

“Let’s have sex with a cat?” asked the zoophile.
“Let’s have sex with the cat and then torture it,” says the sadist.
“Let’s have sex with the cat, torture it and then kill it,” shouted the murderer.
“Let’s have sex with the cat, torture it, kill it and then have sex with it again,” said the necrophile.
“Let’s have sex with the cat, torture it, kill it, have sex with it again and then burn it,” said the pyromaniac.

There was silence, and then the masochist said: “Meow.”

My friend told me this joke yesterday and it got me thinking a little bit about how, for any given task — no matter how repugnant, annoying, or menial it is to some, there exists someone out whose dream is to perform that task. While others may be up for the job and may have completely valid (although in this joke, potentially horrible) ideas on how to solve it and contribute to it, only one person is best suited to the task and they must all work together and understand who plays what role to make it work in the best way possible. When you align people in the orientation of the vector that defines their happiness and interests, things fall together and a beautiful, elegant, and low energy structure forms, like a crystal of ice.

Okay, I admit that this little summary doesn’t fully capture everything at play within the joke, but it still got me a-thinkin’ on how this relates to the issues of task delegations in general, and specifically project management and what I feel is a manager’s most important function: namely, to find the right person for the right job. It’s not the manager’s position to merely dole out tasks to people and expect that whatever problem it is gets solved elegantly and efficiently, but it is their job to make sure that the right person has the right set of tasks on their plate. When that happens, all sorts of things trickle out of it:

  • The person performing the task is happier.
  • Their excitement and happiness at working on something of interest translates to increased productivity.
  • Their efficiency means that they deliver the end result within time and thus financial budgets, which means the clients and the managers are happy.
  • Everyone smiles more often.

Of course, as in most things in this universe of ours, the opposite is true in the cases where you don’t find the right person for the job and instead try to jam that square peg in the proverbial round hole. Sure, you can jerry-rig it and get it to “work”, but often at high cost of time, money, and morale. As tasks become less and less relevant to the person performing the task, additional errors are more likely to be introduced and the dominoes continue to fall against the direction you want them to, and the project becomes less and less organized. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold as my main man WBY says.

This transitions nicely into my general philosophy that everyone’s main goal on a team should be to make everyone else on the team’s job a little easier. To do so requires that you get to know your coworkers — their interests, their personalities, their abilities — and do all that you can to ensure that you are working together in a way that keeps people excited, motivated, and happy. The more you value your peers, the happier your clients will be. The converse, in my experience, is rarely true.