Provoking thought

Jack Shit

Jack Shit
DALL-E rendering of Jack Shit himself

My ultimate goal is to have to do Jack Shit.

Don’t worry, “Jack Shit” is a technical term. It’s named after a person in late 17th century England, who was famous in the productivity community for his shockingly empty calendar. So, please don’t be upset about me using the S-word; it’s capitalized, so we’re good.

What is a great way to test the quality of a manager? Send them on a multi-week vacation and see what happens.

Does everything keep running, or does things grind to a halt? Does the team still deliver, or things are completely blocked? Is there any visibility during this time of what this team is doing, or does it seem the team fell off the face of the earth? For extra browny points, does the team keep self-improving during this time, or does progress stall?

If it’s not immediately obvious, my preference would go to the former option for each of these.

“Well,” you may ask, “then what the hell does a manager do all day?” And you can probably already see my answer coming: well, ideally, Jack Shit.

Except “ideally” seems to be the rare case. Which happens to be good news for people of the management persuasion.

Here’s the story of my professional life in a nutshell:

“Hey Zef, this project/team/area seems to be in a bit of a ‘sub-optimal’ (cleaned-up language) state, can you have a look?”

Zef goes in, assesses the situation and starts working on the system. Over time, things improve, less and less issues occur, and things calm down. Initially he steps in a fair amount, but when nobody’s looking, in more and more places, he slowly moves towards the exit. Zef’s calendar gets cleaner and cleaner. He gets closer and closer to his ultimate goal.

Until he gets fir...

No, that’s not what happens*. Instead, he gets bigger challenges and bigger roles, because things seem to start to kinda work when he’s around, and we like it when that happens. If only he would stop referring to himself in the third person...

*) I did get fired once, but I don’t think it was for doing Jack Shit (but this is TBC) — a story for another time.

The secret? Ultimately it’s not our job to be busy, but to work the system™️ and get results. And I have found that the ability to do that has a very low correlation with the number of Slack messages you send, tickets you create, or meetings you’re in.

But you know. Famous last words.