Bee in a Jar

There a management technique I’d like to share with you.

Imagine you have a team of people that have one common goal with a tight deadline. Everyone must be effective, focused, and above all, competant. Typically, when it’s all-hands-on-deck time, you will undoubtedly have one person on your team who is a bit of a liability. Maybe hungover (especially if working over a weekend) or inexperienced, or simply a bit useless at the deep technical stuff. Whatever the reason, you know that if you let them near the ad-hoc’d spreadsheets you’ve created, you will suddenly start noticing erroneous calculations and have to redo the last 14 hours of work. This is where the “Bee in a Jar” comes in handy. If you send your liability away, you risk alienating them from the team. Similarly, omitting a team member from a common task, especially if a difficult one, can actually appear as favouritism. “Bee in a Jar” bypasses these awkward issues.

It’s very simple; you plan your tasks as normal and distribute amongst your team. In your planning, you allow for a low-risk (even ficticious, although this may adversely affect any statistics you are benchmarked against) task that has little bearing on the technical aspects of the problem at hand. This is the “Bee in the Jar”, and you give it to your weakest team member to look after. Put simply, you are removing someone who isn’t up to the task without stating that they aren’t up to the task.

If worked correctly, it can also present an opportunity to complete tasks that wouldn’t otherwise appear on the radar; mostly, admin and presentation work. It also ensures that the weak team-member won’t put delicate or essential tasks at risk. I remember on one occasion giving a new starter the task of standardising all the filenames on a set of deliverables, and then organising them into appropriately-named directories. Surprisingly, the management team complimented the easy organisation of the project, so was a useful task in two ways.

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