Squeaking Wheels Garner Information and Power
Squeaking Wheels Get the Grease Origination
Squeaking wheels “get the grease.” This has long been a favorite quote to convey the often-stated feeling that only the complainers get attention and are rewarded. It is easy to see how this attitude develops. In just about any field, examples can be seen where ideas or programs with little merit are approved or promoted because someone actively pursued every opportunity to point out their perceived merit or the lack of merit in opposing ideas or programs. They had persistent backers with their own agendas. Their “squeekx” could be heard above all others.
Squeaking Wheels and Program Success
When you want your squeaking wheels to get the winning grease, pay attention to careful planning. The planning should be carefully done with attention to every detail required for successfully meeting your carefully crafted objectives. However, no matter how careful and detailed your planning is, it takes place in a changing environment which must be constantly monitored and appropriate adjustments made. But, a fact of life exists in this process, you will never be able to wait for complete and fully accurate information. Some flexibility will be required and, in some cases, a restart may even be required. If your planning is properly structured, agility in the process will be maximized.
Managing Your Program
The functions of management have been stated, historically, in several ways. One very insightful description of management functions is: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting. Diligent performance of these functions should properly utilize and allocate your scarce resources.
Pitfalls in Program Management
Human Behavior and Squeaking Wheels
Squeaking wheels will be very likely in any program structure you devise. The human element can’t be avoided. Luthans (Luthans, 1977, 95), in his presentation on Models of Human Behavior12, examines some questions regarding humans:
What separates humans from animals or other objects in the universe? What are people really like? What is their real nature? These questions have been debated since the beginning of civilization. Philosophers, theologians, politicians, scientists, managers, and the person on the street have been and still are preoccupied with these questions. Are people good or evil, rational or irrational, free or determined? Most often, scholars and lay persons have ready answers to these questions and staunchly defend their positions. To date, however, the true nature of human behavior is largely undefined and still open for discussion and research.
The Organized Family Program
The family unit has been examined by many and varied experts. While I make no pretense of being an expert in any subject, I would like to examine the family in an environment in which I have some familiarity through a long work history and also from some formal study of that environment – the structured organization.
The Family as an Organization
The premise is made (Robbins, 1974, 3) that:
Those who have the responsibility for deciding the direction an organization will take and who hold the authority to move it toward its goals are the single most important factor in determining an organization’s success or failure. Whether in business, education, government, medicine, or religion, the quality of an organization’s administrators will determine its success. Successful administrators will anticipate change, vigorously exploit opportunities, correct poor performance, and lead the organization toward its objectives.
Mr. Robbins (4) further states that: “Three distinct criteria define the role of an administrator in an organization. The first is the creation of and adherence to a set of goals.” The second is that “there must be limited resources.” “The need for two or more people is the third and last prerequisite for administration.”
Mr. Robbins (4), in summary, states that “administrators work through people and allocate scarce resources to achieve goals. Should any one of these criteria be missing, there is no need for administration. From a different perspective, we can define administration in functional terms: It is planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating the performance of others toward specific ends.”
Squeaking Wheels Abound in the Family
Although Mr. Robbins does not specifically address the family unit, the factors described do fit the family model to a great extent. The failure to adequately perform the described functions in the family leads society to much of the misdirection and conflict we observe around us. Conflict resolution is a major task for the administrator (or family head), and Mr. Robbins believes that conflict resolution is the key to successful administration.
Squeaking Wheels Promote Attention and Accumulate Power
Knowledge/information is power! This statement is often made, and its use and abuse in organizations is a source of much, if not most, organizational conflict. And those who operate/control organizational nodes (supervisors/managers) can make or break a subordinate’s or other manager’s career through control of information flow, interpretation of information, assignments, information filtering, and information use. This process I have observed and experienced, first hand, in many different situations. By operating at the node, information flow and access is through them in the formal organization. Through control of information flow, interpretation, and filtering, managers control/impact the performance of the subordinate or other manager by depriving them of or ensuring them of adequate information to perform their function. In this way they can enhance or detract from their performance. Through assignments and use of the information they determine who gets credit and advancement. For the unscrupulous manager, this is a very powerful weapon. Defense against this type of abuse is very difficult. The victim has to rely largely on the informal organization for support. Secrets and lack of information about what is going on in the family unit are also very stressful. It can be very divisive. One author (Baron 1986, 353) states that “….reactions to the use of power can be deadly to both satisfaction and productivity. Thus, it is important that they be avoided.”
Management, as a function and benefit of their occupancy of nodes in the communications channels, “feeds” upon the capabilities and knowledge of all those who are subject to their influence, both within and outside their own organization. This allows them immense leverage of their own capabilities and knowledge, and selective sharing of this information and influence is a powerful force and weapon.
Squeaking Wheels Hinder Program Performance
In some organizations, the lack of sharing of information becomes a characteristic of the organizational culture. Apparently, sharing of information is perceived to be detrimental to the stature and/or position and advancement of the individual. If the information is shared, they are no longer perceived as the “expert.” This attitude is very destructive to the health and performance of the organization. This characteristic seems to be more prevalent in organizations populated by “professionals” than in those not claiming to be professionals. I have experienced this type of environment for several years and have heard many comments and discussions on its consequences. Management skillfully ignores attempts to correct the practice. The family suffers from many of the above organization deficiencies and failures.