During our last
department meeting, our president announced that a new VP of Operations had
been selected to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of our previous VP.
She could not give us full details since nothing was official just yet, but she
did tell us we would be happy with the choice because the person was “fun” and
“motivating”. My heart sank. Our president was addressing a group of mostly
scientists; how could she think these attributes would be enticing to us? This
is not summer camp. We don’t want pep talks. We need to fill knowledge gaps. We
want usable expertise. Why this misalignment of priorities? Because
Corporate is from Venus….. and Operations is from Mars.
I was trying to
explain my work situation to a friend who is a university professor and
commented, “You know how much trouble it is to have all the scientists in your
department reach consensus, now imagine a group of non-scientists telling the
scientists what to do.” There was silence, then a quiet “oh.”
classes, working in science labs, talking with science friends, watching “The
Big Bang Theory,” chuckling at Gary Larson cartoons, and usually also being
married to other scientists — it is easy to be completely immersed in
science culture. The saturation is so seamless that you don’t realize you’ve
been in a protected cocoon until you are placed in a new, foreign environment
and begin interacting with non-scientists on a daily basis.
You try to adjust.
You try to understand. You try to work within these new parameters. Then one
day you finally come to the inescapable conclusion that non-scientists are
truly a separate species with a completely different language, one that while
extensive in vocabulary actually conveys very little meaning when analyzed in
My hypothesis is
supported by facts.
attended a workshop, another “how can we improve things?” talkfest. As an
ice-breaker, everyone took a personality test and recorded their results with a
dot on a grid. The position of the dot was a visual representation of
personality type. The majority of the dots for the operations branch were in
one corner, while the majority of dots for the corporate branch occupied a
completely separate area of the grid. The clusters of dots did not demonstrate
any overlap. The data were so robust, statistics were not necessary.
I am attempting to
improve the inefficiencies and discrepancies of this current work model, but a
colleague of mine might have a better alternative. She works quietly in her
office and declares her strategy on her mug, which simply states ‘Stay away
from me with your touchy-feely crap’.