A few years ago when a new and Very Senior Manager had just been installed in our organization, a colleague assigned to interview him for the company newsletter invited various of us to suggest questions. Some of my proposals, slightly edited (to protect the less-than-innocent!):

  • What is the proper balance, in his judgment, between putting out today's fires v. long-term investment? (And don't accept the answer that "we need both".)
  • What are the precise areas in which we need to learn to "Just Say 'No'"? That is, what must we stop doing, given our limited resources today? (And laugh if you hear "work smarter, not harder".)
  • Who are our key customers? Why? How does he plan to measure "success" in serving those customers?
  • What are his suggestions for bridging the gap between the "two cultures" in our organization — and what dichotomies does he come up with which exhibit such a gap for us to resolve? (e.g., humanities v. sciences, or civilian v. military, or ...)
  • What are the most critical workforce problems that he anticipates worrying about during the next six months — e.g., issues of racial or sexual harassment, lack of headroom, loss of key personnel to outside jobs or retirement, excessive turnover or churning of people among projects and accounts, or something else entirely?
  • Trick question: How important does he think it is to make us a "learning organization", and what is it worth spending (in time, not dollars) to do so? Specifically, how much time does he think that we should fence off for thinking and learning and getting out of our box(es) and consciously exploring new ideas? 5% (= 2 hours/week)? 10%? more? less? (Get as precise a number from him as possible.) Does he believe that we will generally do OK if we kinda keep going the way we have been, with sporadic training during gaps between crises, and with a trickle of new people coming in to inject freshness in rapidly changing areas? Or is a significant change in priorities needed, so that the outfit can survive to 2010 and beyond?
  • What's his favorite color? If he could be any kind of tree, what kind would he be? What not-directly-work-related books has he read lately that he would recommend to others? Who's his favorite writer these days? (These are serious questions! (^_^) )

Friday, April 06, 2001 at 05:47:19 (EDT) = 2001-04-06


(correlates: HiddenKnowledge, WhyStudyScience, OnLegalism, ...)