A regular day in a chocolate factory 🍫
On why this factory scene is not about what you think it is.
A universal metaphor
The below “I Love Lucy” scene has made circles as a metaphor for bad management, which throws a lot of work on already overworked staff just because they seem to be working sustainably. This symbolic clip speaks volumes to everyone working in an environment prioritising speed and output in a way leading to burnout.
That said, another caveat is rarely mentioned and equally important to remember. First, watch for yourself 👇🏼
What happens in the scene
The manager expects all of the candy to be wrapped in paper. First, things go well, but soon the production line speeds up, and the situation becomes unmanageable.
The workers successfully try to hide the fact that they cannot handle the workload. They don’t show it due to the fear of being fired. This backfires with the manager seeing things are progressing well and deciding to increase the workload.
The hidden problem
The often neglected fact is that those workers don’t speak up about the unsustainable conditions. When a manager does a check-up, they see all is fine, and there is space for improvement.
The manager sets expectations, but the workers need to do the same. I see this happening frequently with teams. They accept whatever workload comes and play the victim role (saying “they are mistreating us”) instead of responding and setting boundaries.
I wrote about the idealisation of the role of a manager in my previous article:
In the scene, we observe the likelihood of being fired rises considerably. The work will pile up, and the potential losses for the company will be much higher when compared to slowing down (even if frowned upon).
It’s far better to know we’re not going to make it (deadline, KPI, whatever) earlier rather than when things get ugly, especially when you are running a company.
Of course, the world is more complex than a simple movie scene, yet how often did you try to set boundaries healthily like:
Showing the flow of work and its consequences.
Educating your stakeholders on the risks and showing them alternative options.
Inviting them for a Gemba Walk.
Creating transparent rules for your team on how to accommodate workload and sharing them with your stakeholders, who then know how to interact better to meet their needs.
🎈Share this post if you think it can help others to set boundaries better in their team.