photo by grahambones
One the bloggers I follow regularly is the cartoonist Hugh MacLeod in his blog gapingvoid. This week he wrote a post titled: “artists are entrepreneurs and marketers, too“. The subject of the connection between art and business is a subject he writes a lot about and I think this a worthy cause, as the two are not as different as we usually think. But what this post made me think about is something bigger, due to a comment on one of his other posts that he quoted in this post, which goes like this:
The thing about working as an artist is that you never realize how much of the work is on top of making the actual art. I was remembering how when I started out, I would visit the studios of more established artists and couldn’t begin to grasp how they ran the show. It’s taken years to slowly put each piece in place. Every day there’s new problems to solve, but if you can solve them in a way that sticks— so that from now on that issue is covered, eventually you come up with an efficient system for supporting the most important work you do, which is the art.
An artist is like every professional. He is very good at something. He has his strengths. But the problem is that he has to do so much work around that doesn’t use those strengths. It may be administrative. It may be marketing. Or it could be anything else. And every second he is not doing what he is good at is a waste of time, effort and a moment where we all miss on his art.
I am sure you felt it before. I know I have. Working as a law intern is all about wasting your time and doing things that are under your potential. Work that can be easily done by someone who did not study law for 4 years. And when somebody complains about it, the answer is usually something like: “this the way it has always been, it’s part of the territory”.
Well, it is not. Because great managers know that this is a conventional wisdom that must be ignored. Managers need to help each employee excel at his job. This means that they should do everything they can to make sure the employees use their strengths as much as they can. So a great manager will create a process that allows his professionals to concentrate as much of their time on what they do best. It just like the second phase according to theory of constraints:
“Decide how to exploit the constraint (make sure the constraint’s time is not wasted doing things that it should not do)”.
Employees being the constraints in the good sense of the word, of course. But the idea is still the same.
I believe it is all about the process. The way your business or team operates, should support the people in it and their strengths. You need to decide which employees are your priorities, your valuable assets, your constraints, and build the business around making sure they have the ability to employ their strength if not all the time, most of the time. The process should not only be effective by itself, it should support and make sure that the right people are effective.