I’ve always been impressed with the output of Scott Adams and his Dilbert books. He did a sterling job in two of his books after reviewing the stupidity that happens in offices around the world, but then asked the intelligent questions. Like, if what it says in your Job Plan or your Personal Objectives is so bad, what would one that did things properly look like?
One of the gold nuggets in the appendix of one of his books was what he termed the “Out at 5” or “OA5” plan. At one fairly young company down my career, I employed two recently minted Marketing Graduates. In the absence of any template used by the company at that stage, I stole the theme completely – and the result is below.
When I moved to be a Director of the Software Business Unit at Computacenter, I asked my boss if she was okay with me using the same form of OA5 plan for all my employees there. She read one and sort of freaked out. I understood her concern after she explained her nervousness: that people would take advantage of the words literally, albeit my experience was that people followed the spirit of it instead – and worked hard regardless. So, in that instance, I filed it away and used the Corporate standard process in place instead.
I nevertheless executed using its sentiments – and ensured that if there was a vendor conference in the USA, it was my newly minted Product Managers that went on behalf of the team (they after all needed the context to explain how developments fitted in with future product roadmaps – better they know and impress people with their authoritative knowledge, rather than having to defer to me all the time). They always grew in stature very fast by being thrown in at the deep end (albeit with a safety rope to tug on if ever needed), and were a joy to see blossom into key employees of the future.
Pity I couldn’t put things in writing though. I found some of the same sentiments in the excellent ROWE (Results Orientated Work Environment) Books, though explicitly offering clock off time to go to the cinema mid afternoon, or to work remotely for an extended period of time, would have been a tougher management sell at the time. That said, I always found everyone enjoyed their work more with the below in place. This is a real plan, bar names and dates removed to protect the innocent!
OA5 Plan: (Employee Name)
You will sometimes find yourself surrounded by people who have different goals to you, who will unknowingly do things that undermine your projects, or that generally behave outside the best interests of (Company Name). Your task is to rise above this, and despite all obstacles, deliver:
- 180,000 subscribers by the end of (date)
- Complete the National Advertising for (4 month date span), including the test of a radio campaign
- Complete the Corporate Brochure, Welcome Packs and other tasks that we mutually agree that you should execute
- Full participation as a member of the Marketing Services Team
- Help your Manager put together a spend plan for the new financial year starting (date)
- Tests of everything you do. It’s a much safer world if we get to know what works, what doesn’t, and that we’ve learnt. Within the bounds of experimental exercises, we should strive for continuous improvement
Functions of your Manager
In support of the above goals, your Manager will assist in the following ways:
- Eliminating Assholes. If anyone or anything is standing in the way of you meeting your objectives, please seek assistance to get the obstacle cleared. It is his role to absorb uncertainty and to provide an environment where you can deliver your projects unhindered. We want you to enjoy your work and be proud of your achievements.
- Your manager will do his best to provide an environment where you are learning (and helping the company learn) every day. Requests for training are welcome. Sharing of ideas and distribution of your learnings to your Manager and your colleagues, ideally in small digestible chunks, is encouraged. And you are expected to make mistakes; that’s the way we all learn.
- Seek forgiveness, not permission. In the same way you can escalate issues to your Manager, there will be times when the data, or key staff, aren’t available for us to hit a key decision deadline. Time to market is key; having weighed up the pros and cons, make the decision that you believe is right for the company, our customers, and preferably both.
- Building your Personal Network. It’s often a case of who you know; contact with suppliers, customers and other departments in (Company) is actively encouraged. Please keep details of everyone you talk to, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from anyone with pertinent experience that you deem appropriate. The strength of your Personal Network – particularly outside the company – should build to be a significant personal asset.
- Timekeeping and Attendance. We wish to provide an environment where you can discharge your commitments between 9:00am and 5:30pm. If there are times when you prefer to work from home, or from another location, please let us know your whereabouts so we can find you if needed. Should you work extended hours (attending press announcements or any work related activity outside hours), you may take this time off in lieu; again, please let us know so we can correctly set expectations of anyone that asks for you.
- No Retribution. Your Manager is available to help in any way, at any time, day or night. However, if anything concerns you in any way, you are free to talk to (Manager’s Manager name), any other Director, or the Personnel Department directly.
Manager: Ian Waring
Office: (office direct dial phone number)
Mobile: (work mobile phone number)
Home: (Home phone number)
Email: (Work email address) or (Home email address)