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Remember why your job exists

The idea about this post started lurking in my mind after a team building event in the autumn. Almost half an year later it is finally time to tell the story.

Team building game

Frequently at a team building there are games organized and this one was no exception. A lot of people gathered in a huge room and we were given our assignment – to build a shopping mall, two residence buildings and a road to connect them. Game was close to what should happen in real life – people were assigned in different groups that had to work together. Here are the groups:

The investors

The guys with the money – they were given a lot of paper sheets, each representing a 100 Euro bill. Their objective was to finance it all.

The builders

People doing the actual building. Investors give them money, they build. In case you are wondering they were using mostly paper and tape.

The road builders

In order to use any kind of building you need to have a road connecting it to the road system. Those guys had to build such a road. They also had to make sure electricity, gas and water also flow in the new building. Water straws were used for the pipes and taped on the bottom of paper roads in order to achieve that. All this had to be financed by the local government.

The shop

Somebody had to provide the paper, tape, straws, markers and scissors needed for “construction”. Their objective was get most of the investors money at the end – apparently everybody was working for free on this project 🙂

 The local government

I was one of those guys. We had a limited budget and were supposed to fund the road building and make sure everything is ok. Money needed for the road that we did not have initially had to come from taxes. We had to give builders permit and inspect the building process.

How did it go?

Money were not enough for each group, idea was to somehow “rotate” the money and collaborate.

So, before any building actually started we had to approach others and find how we can work together. Our local government had a sheet of paper with what we are supposed to do described. We knew the road had to be funded by us, but we had only half of the money needed. Rest had to be acquired from taxes.

Our “responsibilities sheet” was not very clear and as a result our group struggled to understand what are we supposed to do. We needed to tax all buildings when they are completed and give them “ready to be used” permit, that one was clear. What was not clear was how to tax road builders – they needed some kind of build permit, but who will pay for it? It was decided initially that they need to pay for it.

This led to an absurd situation – road builders come to us for money, so they can start building the road. We told them we had only half of the money – and they said ok, give us that while you get for the rest, it is enough for us to get started. So we gave them the money, but also insisted they immediately pay a tax and return part of them to us. This led to to them not being able to buy their materials and us with some money we had no real use at all.

So what did poor road builders do? They decided to fuck the government and go get all that they needed from the investors, because obviously these guys had money.

Meanwhile the chaos in our group continued – we invented some new taxes and tried to tax the buildings twice. If we had done that we would have crashed the whole game. Thankfully we came to our senses in time, but not before a lot of arguing took place.

End result

A lot of people did not like the game. We were not happy with how others bypassed us. Investors were not happy because they had to deal with us and do our job. Road builders were not happy as they were delayed by us and had to “work overtime” to finish the project. Shop owners were not happy – I am not sure why. Apparently only the guys building the houses enjoyed the game.

All this mostly because we relied on one sheet of paper and forgot our main objective – to make sure road is there and everything is ok for others.

We got obsessed with little details of the job like what kind of tax we should tax. While every one of us was focused to do his small part we completely missed what is our purpose and others suffered.

Was this just a game?

Yes, it was. But real life is no different. We all have to deal with this kind of behavior, on the job or not. People that are too focused on their job description and have no idea or forgot why their job exists in the first place.

Remember why your job exists

I think people rarely think about why their job was created. And it is very easy to forget, especially if you are part of a big organization with a lot of rules and process. You can just focus on what people tell you to do, according to what somebody decided your job should be and put on a sheet of paper.

But what if, by following that defined process word by word, you are not doing the right thing?

Do not focus just on the process.

Do not measure your work by the taxes you are collecting. Measure it by roads you have built.

Thank you for reading.