Sometimes when I visit companies I become acutely aware of SPOW. SPOW is a buzz word that ought to have greater currency. According to the Free Dictionary SPOW means Scope and Program of Work. Nope. According to Wikipedia SPOW means Science Parks of Wallonia. Nope. They all have it wrong, and in any case we need to talk about Surviving SPOW. Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? What am I talking about - some new food product? Spow Chow Mein? Spow Bolognese? No. SPOW is Sheer Pressure Of Work. Know this one? Ring a bell?
SPOW hits people hardest – more perhaps than any other area of work. Directors and managers can almost cope with increasing admin. And, yes, bureaucracy. They can spend hours at the operational interface. There is, after all, something satisfying about work - that’s why we do it. But when our own people start producing SPOW for us ... hell! That truly is the pits.
Who are these people? You know them, surely ... There’s ....
Mr Plausible Liar. He’s always saying, ‘Yes, boss’ and smiling. He doesn’t need any support. He gets on with things. He radiates confidence - is always passing a joke or two - is always at someone’s ear - someone important. No need either for too much detail with him - he obviously knows what he’s doing. Briskly, he moves on from discussing in too much detail work issues. But funny how production keeps slipping. Funny how cock-ups keep occurring.
Of course, there’s also Mr I.M. History, who’s been with us now for at least ... well ... seventy-nine years. He’s seen all the changes and knows none of them are good. But solid chap - solid as a brick - and we’d never sack him (loyalty and all) - and anyway, he is part of the building. He really has grown into that chair.
Then there’s Ms Prima Donna. We always notice her - there’s always so much to notice. Oh dear! Did we omit to give her a 25% pay hike last year because she deigned to stay late twice to help out? We really need her star quality. It’s a real crying shame she’s never appreciated enough. The world owes her a living - and we are privileged to make the major contribution.
Finally, there’s Mr and Mrs Bitter-and-Twisted, and their well known trapdoor: just when you try to treat them like normal human beings - whoosh! - you go straight through the floor. The good thing is: we can rely on them in a crisis. Yes, we can rely on them - to enjoy it and parrot together, ‘I told you so’. Sometimes, through the walls, you hear a deep guttural snigger on the other side. Sometimes you simply spot knife-sharpeners left lying carelessly in drawers.
Did I say ‘finally’? The story wouldn’t be complete without Mr and Mrs Diamond. They shine - they really do - and their skills and commitment are our cutting edge. Yes, these people I really enjoy coming to work to work with. These people are creative with the light our company shines.
One way of Surviving SPOW is ensuring we have enough Mr and Mrs Diamonds in our pack! Now, how can we do that?