I am archiving older pieces I have written on other sites, making this the definitive home for all my work. This is one of several I am porting over from my GameDev.Net user journal. Enjoy!
Yesterday (Thursday, April 7) I had a cookout. Turnout was interesting; the "friends" who all assured me they'd be there in a minute never showed up, but far less familiar people made good on their committments to attend. This got me thinking about dependability and task assignment.
I had asked one of my friends to get some potato salad, since I had provided the venue, bought and prepared all the meat and supplied free juice and soda, too (it was a B.Y.O.B.). He never came through. Imagine, if you will, founding a production entity with friends, then delegating a critical task to one of these individuals. Imagine he doesn't come through, and the production is jeopardized as a consequence. What do you do?
Generally speaking, "management" is not "friends" with the workforce, and this is why. Familiarity breeds contempt, even in the most informal of contexts; with an increase in responsibility comes and increase in consequence, and it becomes too risky to foster excessive accessibility between PHBs (yes, that would be you, intrepid entrepreneur) and grunts. I think the key lies in being friendly, but maintaining that clear sense of distance and difference.
When employees do what is expected of them - and when you give them every necessity to maximize that likelihood - then a genuinely genial atmosphere emerges, and better work is done. But it remains the responsibility of the management/administration to assign tasks according to demonstrated ability (I knew my friend was often unreliable, so I made sure his task was non-critical), to set reasonable deadlines and to accept the following maxim: everything good is a result of their work, every failure is your fault. (If you had a bad worker, you should have fired him before he endangered your overall production.)
I attended a Careers in Media Seminar on Wednesday. It didn't tell me a whole lot that was new, but I did find out that my university has a Small Business Development Program, where I can run my business plan by the staff and receive feedback as well as resources to shore up my deficiencies. I'll be visiting on Monday and share what I learn - or don't.