Good to be unskilled?

Have you ever wanted someone to say this about your company “wow, we are really horrible at doing X”?  And I don’t mean in a thank-god-they-are-admitting-they-have-issues kind of way, but more in a “I’m really proud we can’t do that well” kind of way.  Up until recently, I thought the answer to my question was “are you crazy!?!?  Of course not!  I want us to do everything really well.”

Like many large companies, ones I’ve been working with are undergoing a tough time due to the economy.  And of course, that means layoffs.  People that I liked were not so lucky.  You get around to talking with these folks about how the experience of being laid off is.  I mean, it can’t be fun, but you want to know if it went relatively well.

Of course, it doesn’t go well.  I realize there’s no good way to lay someone off, but there are less bad ways.  I’ve heard horrid rumors of other companies laying people off via email and simply just locking the doors to the building.  This experience was nowhere that far down on the scale.

But there are always things you can do better.  For example, the process of laying people off starts first thing in the morning and continues until everyone has been told.  But, since you have no warning as to whether you are going to be laid off or not, those who kept our jobs sit around in our offices panicking that they’re next.  At some point during the day it is over, and wouldn’t you want to know that?  Employees heard nothing until hours after the last layoff had been done.

Unnecessary hours, in my opinion, that nobody should have had to spend worrying needlessly.  I know, I know, think of how the people who were laid off felt.  Was it really that bad of a thing to leave employees wondering?  No, not really, but it could have been done better.

Later on that evening, I considered how lucky we were that the company is terrible at communicating during layoffs.  Why are they so terrible?  Well, it’s a rare occurrence.  If you don’t practice it, even if you learn from a prior experience you never get to apply those learnings.  If a company was expertly prepared to do layoffs, I’d be a little worried.

Sure, isn’t it great that they are super-capable?  No!  It’s awful!  It’s something they shouldn’t be doing, something that they have rarely had to do.  They should be god-awful at it.  Frankly, it hurt at the time, but now I’m downright pleased.

And not just communicating layoffs applies here.  Disaster recovery of all forms might be fair game.  I mean, if you’ve gotten your system, process, product, whatever it is, so reliable that you’re unprepared for when it  fails, that might actually be a good thing.

If you fail all the time, you’ll have the people and processes in place to deal with the failure.  You’ll be expert fire fighters, and that’s just not the place you want to be.

I’m not offering a free pass to companies for not being capable of dealing with a disaster that is likely to occur – like your servers or network going down – but at some point if you’ve really gotten good at something, I’d expect you’d be bad at dealing with the outlier.

Could it be good to be unskilled at something you shouldn’t be doing in the first place?  I think so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *