The Self-Correcting Manager

A Meeting Management Story
By: Pamela S. Bendio

I recently sat down at my computer and, having entered my thoughts on the screen, I reached up to the menu bar and told the program to do a spelling and grammar check. It brought to mind the great difference between this technology and the self-correcting typewriter I once used. I was in the middle of staff evaluations, and so somehow the phrase, “self-correcting manager” blinked into my mind like the flashing cursor where I had left off my typing . . .

“ALL ABOARD! LAST CALL” The conductor sang these words as he leaned out from the side of the train.

I was standing on the platform, somewhat startled because the last I knew, I had been sitting at my computer . . . “ALL ABOARD!” His voice was more insistent now . . . “ALL ABOARD the PRIORITY TIMELINE EXPRESS!”

Without being quite sure why, I stepped up impulsively and entered the moving train. I slipped quietly into a seat as I heard the conductor’s announcement: “The PRIORITY TIMELINE EXPRESS, now leaving Last Meeting! Next stop . . .” and his voice trailed off as he moved into the following car. Instinctively I knew what the next stop would be, so I sat by the window watching Last Meeting fade into the distance. I listened as the train picked up speed and the clickety clack became quite regular. I settled back into my seat, the scenery became a blur, and I closed my eyes and listened. “Do more with less, do more with less . . .you’re on the PRIORITY TIMELINE EXPRESS . . . do more with less!”

“NEXT STOP, Post Meeting Evaluation in twenty minutes! If you are disembarking, please check your area to make sure you have all your personal effects.” That’s when I noticed the boxes beside me, with my name on them and distinctly marked: Questionnaires. The passenger across the way looked knowingly at my bewilderment, “You do remember how you got here, don’t you?” The other passengers turned and waited expectantly for my reply.

“Why yes, I was at my computer typing when I . . .”

“No, not that,” she said impatiently. “Don’t you remember when you got on the train, when you got on the PRIORITY TIMELINE EXPRESS?”

“Well sure,” I said, “I got on at Last Meeting and . . .”

“No! I see your mind is still fuzzy – it always happens to those who get back on at Last Meeting! You must think back to where your journey first began. You got on board at Defining Objectives and must travel on this train as far as Until-you get-it right!”

I heard myself saying, “Where’s that?” to a chorus of passengers whispering, “Oh, surely, she must know that . . . everyone knows . . . it’s just after Next Meeting!”

Next meeting . . . next meeting . . . where had I heard that before? Before I knew it, I had been lulled to sleep by the clickety clack again, but this time it sounded more like . . .”What are we managers always trying to do? Earn-a-profit. Save-a-dollar. Accomplish some objective . . . Make people happy (the right ones of course!) . . . Do it better . . . Do it bigger . . . Do it more efficiently – next time . . . What are we managers always trying to do!”

The passenger across from me shook me by the shoulder, “Look, you fell asleep and all your papers are scattered on the floor; let me help you gather them up.” Instinctively I reached out for the questionnaires she handed me. “You’re evaluating your objectives aren’t you?” she asked with a sly twinkle in her eye. “I see you want to make sure you’re doing it right?”

“Why, of course,” I replied.

“You did define what is was you were looking for . . . what it was you wanted to accomplish?” My mind suddenly cleared and was filled with facts and figures; theories and concepts; rules and regulations; feelings and impressions . . . the rush of information was exhilarating! Had I planned for the unexpected? Did I look past the obvious? Did I challenge the way things had always been done to see if that was still the best way to do it? Had I looked to other sources of information . . . looked at what I was doing from a different perspective? The woman nodded sagely, the twinkle still in her eye.

“Yes,” she said, “I thought I knew you – you must be the Self-Correcting Manager! Welcome aboard the PRIORITY TIMELINE EXPRESS. This is your ticket; it’s good through to Next Meeting and at least as far as Until-you-get-it right!”

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