Sunday, January 25, 2009

Helping with Homework

The Grumblettes are currently both at college, working on an introductory course. They've recently been given an assignment to write "a report". The assignment guidelines are quite detailed, laying out exactly what's expected of them. As usual, though, there's quite a gap between the the abstract explanations of the college tutor, and what he or she is actually trying to convey.

Mrs Grumbler requested that I help, so I knocked up a quick example which, she says, I should publish. Since I know when to do as I'm told... Here it is. If anyone else has observed similar behaviour, or resorted to the same approach, I'd love to learn about it... (That means, leave comments please)...

Update: 28 January. Clearly hacked off with being reviled by the 'junior workers' the dishwasher itself has gone on strike, claiming to have triggered its 'leak prevention system'. This has precipitated a call to 'appliance repair man', who will arrive in his souped up Transit Van on Friday. Its also raised the question, why doesnt the UK Government have a leak prevention system?

Dishwasher Behaviour Report


Figure 1: AEG Dishwasher

This report describes a number of behaviour patterns displayed by the junior workforce at “Grumbler Towers” and observed by the Senior Management after the workforce has been requested to Empty and Refill the Dishwasher. One specific behaviour will be analysed in detail, and the implications of a second behaviour will be discussed, prior to making a conclusion based on the effects of all of the behaviours.

Observed behaviours


This is a desirable but rare behaviour. When exhibited, the junior worker will complete the task properly, promptly and without complaint.

I Hate the Stupid Dishwasher
This particular behaviour is an expression of dissent. Often, it merely takes the form of a grumble, but it may also be followed by a second behaviour and will then usually result in non-cooperation.

It’s Not My Turn (AKA I Did It Last Time)
The junior workforce consists of two individuals. Both are keen to ensure that one does no more work than the other. Sometimes the statement may be based on truth, and at other times it may simply be a preface to non cooperation.

They Aren’t My Dishes
This statement of the blindingly obvious is presumably an attempt to justify non-cooperation. As with all of the other behaviours, it is utterly irrelevant, and futile.

I’ll Do It Tomorrow
On the face of it, this may actually be a genuine attempt to put an unpalatable task off until a later date. However, if the request to defer the activity is granted, it often results in no-cooperation in the morning, especially if no reminder is issued. If the worker is questioned as to the reasons for failure to execute the task as agreed, it will often respond with “Forgot”.

Detailed Analysis of: It’s Not My Turn
The objective of this behaviour is to avoid the task by having it assigned to an alternate resource. This is usually a junior worker, but on occasion a management resource will be called upon to perform this individual contributor task.

As discussed above, the behaviour may indeed be based on fact – sometimes a worker is requested to perform the task on successive occasions. More often, however, this is an unsophisticated attempt to avoid work.

Management has attempted, with various degrees of success, to discourage this behaviour by assigning set days to perform the task, or by posting a written rota. Neither solution has ever worked satisfactorily for any extended period of time.

Implications of: They Aren’t My Dishes
Recent over-use of this excuse led to an alternative strategy by a member of the management team. Rather than attempt to refute a substantively correct, but nonetheless irrelevant statement, the workers were invited to clean their own dishes, immediately following any meal, and by hand (reference, telephone conversation during January between management team, one of whom was at the Headquarters location, and the other travelling on business in the USA).

This approach was highly effective, since it brought home that there are indeed less enjoyable ways of treating dishes than the requested dishwasher related activity.

Each of the behaviours listed, with the exception of “OK”, is exhibited with the sole aim of avoiding the dishwasher related task – at the expense of another party. All are irrelevant, since the task needs to be done, and all are counterproductive since they use more time and energy than actually completing the task without complaint. The fact that the junior workers are fully aware of this simply serves to make the behaviours utterly bewildering to the management team.

Reference List
Figure 1: AEG 60780 Dishwasher –
Telephone Conversation between Management team, January, 2009.


Dr Archibold T Dubious said...

Re: Dishwasher Report: January 2009

Alternative studies, performed at "Acorn Towers", Potsville, have shown that "These Aren't My Dishes" to be the statistically most likely response in a list of responses recorded.

However the Grumbler report does in fact leave out one of the responses noted in the Acorn report. Namely the "do a runner" response, in which one junior member of staff exits the kitchen area whilst the other junior member and the senior management have been distracted by a decoy.

Under normal circumstances it would be entirely right and proper for senior management to politely request the missing member of staff to return and resume their work function. However, the Potsville facilty is a large building which means that communication can sometime become strained and may often be "misheard".

Options facing senior management are:-

a) Physically seek out the missing junior member of staff and persuade them to return them to their work function.

b) Send the other junior member of staff to seek out their colleague and persuade them to return. (Please note: this often leads to a critical loss of resources for an extended period).

c) Have another glass of wine and do the job yourself.

Extended research over the Christmas period, when all of the junior staff were present at the Potsville facility, has shown that by proactive planning by one member of senior management; namely barring the door and preventing exit from the kitchen, does, statistically yields better results.

The overall conclusion drawn from the Potsford facility was that, going forward, senior management should become less "hands on" and delegate the process of food preparation and cleanup entirely to the junios staff. Senior management should retire to a safe distance (e.g. a nearby curry house) and resist all opportunities to interfere.

Once sufficiently experienced, these departments can be "spun off" as seperate facilities. Of course these facilities will need to be audited on a regular basis. Experienced Auditors will be expected to train the new "facility heads" to spot and rectify the previous behaviours of their own past, by using role-play, facilitated by alcohol.

In time, it is believed that this "feedback loop" will become part of Company culture and be the basis of a collaborative framework accross staff levels. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant - a double lesson for the Junior staff. They will learn how yo write a report and see the error of their ways and Senior management can return to working on the future direction of the corporation (namely, a quiet life for Mr & Mrs Grumbler).

A.Colleague said...

Perhaps you could do a report that would make your co-workers hang their heads in shame at their behavior when you ask them to implement a crazy diktat from above.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! What was the original hypothesis though?
How about an initial disciplinary meeting for the junior workers, a few threats to kick 'em out now they're old enough, an appraisal with management a month later, if no improvement, sack the buggers. In the present economic climate and for CSR / environmental reasons, management might be better off getting someone in on an as and when basis to wash up in the traditional method. Sell the dishwasher on ebay and use the money to take the senior management out for a team-building night at the local curry house. Will work wonders. No charge for this bit of consultancy. Good luck.