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Week 6 Discussion - The Red Pen/ Blue Pen Exercise

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#11
:topic: You realize, of course, that a "flea circus" NEVER had "trained" fleas. The entire "circus" was a clockwork machine which ran in fits and starts as if there were live creatures pulling the wagons and swinging on the trapeze. Magnets attached to the clockwork actually moved the various apparatus that seemingly "rolled" when pulled by the fleas. The music box music played to drown out the sound of the machinery.

When fleas were actually present, they were glued to the apparatus (alive or dead.)

In a way, a red pen operation is like a flea circus - it runs the same way every time (every show) and sometimes the individual performers are dead, but the boss doesn't care. And there's lots of noise and music to mask the sound of the creaky machinery.
 
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Jamie Morris

#12
Wes Bucey said:
:topic: You realize, of course, that a "flea circus" NEVER had "trained" fleas. The entire "circus" was a clockwork machine which ran in fits and starts as if there were live creatures pulling the wagons and swinging on the trapeze. Magnets attached to the clockwork actually moved the various apparatus that seemingly "rolled" when pulled by the fleas. The music box music played to drown out the sound of the machinery.

When fleas were actually present, they were glued to the apparatus (alive or dead.)

In a way, a red pen operation is like a flea circus - it runs the same way every time (every show) and sometimes the individual performers are dead, but the boss doesn't care. And there's lots of noise and music to mask the sound of the creaky machinery.
Yes, that is, of course, the illusion of control. Viewers of the flea circus believe that the fleas exist and that the fleas (even though they are imaginary) are so well trained and managed by the leader of the circus. The same is true of the boss's manager in the red pen operation. The boss's manager is also fooled by the illusion of organizational control exhibited through meaningless quotas and performance numbers.
 
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dwall

#13
I thought that the exercise was interesting because all of us students were able to readily describe the characteristics pertaining to "blue" and "red" companies. We all wanted to work at blue ones and did not want to work at red ones. But as I left class I wondered if us students could easily identify the blue and red characteristics, can the management of red companies also identify those red characteristics of their companies? If they can, why don't they try to make changes to their corporate cultures or employees' perceptions? Or maybe they don't know/care? Anyway, when I went to work the next day, I put the exercise under my glass blotter on my desk so I could see it frequently during the day. In this way, over time I can identify the red characteristics of my organization and within my small zone of empowerment, maybe I can change the red perception to blue. I'ts worth a try...
 
S

ssagreen

#14
I believe many companies are purple pen companies. I say this because I have seen managers that are blue and I see others that are red. The red pen managers seem to be more worried about fixing today's crisis and have a shorter outlook then the blue pen managers. Overall I get more work accomplished and the company is better off when I am helping a blue pen manager, but there always seems to be the red manager that demands that you fix their crisis. By fixing the red pen managers problem at the expense of the blue manager, the red pen managers are percieved as the manager who fixes things and gets things done. Therefore making the company a little more red as time goes on.
By always fixing todays problem you are never looking ahead and preventing tomorrows. This fire fighting can become a viscious cycle if the system is guided and corrected to become more blue.
 
M

Mary Davenport

#15
dwall said:
But as I left class I wondered if us students could easily identify the blue and red characteristics, can the management of red companies also identify those red characteristics of their companies? If they can, why don't they try to make changes to their corporate cultures or employees' perceptions? Or maybe they don't know/care? Anyway, when I went to work the next day, I put the exercise under my glass blotter on my desk so I could see it frequently during the day. In this way, over time I can identify the red characteristics of my organization and within my small zone of empowerment, maybe I can change the red perception to blue. I'ts worth a try...
:applause:

This is a really interesting assessment, I believe we often see things that look like "red pen" in our daily business lives and fail to change them because we feel we can't, whether "its always been done that way" or we don't feel we have the power. But I believe Ms. Wall is right that we need to remind ourselves frequently that change is needed and chip away the red every chance we get. Thanks for the insight. :agree1:
 
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jlowens

#16
Blue Pen/Red Pen

I found this to be a very interesting exercise; however, as we exercise we along, it seem familiar to me. I see way too much control in the red pen company. Managers want to control employees to the point that employees aren't allowed to think for themselves. For example, following procedures to the point that every action step in every single procedure has to be signed off by the person performing the step. I agree that some critical procedures require this type approach but it doesn't always work. For example, I worked at a place that believed in the blue pen approach. Ever procedure was signed off by the person performing the work; however, a technician signed off on a step that had not been performed. The results was a recyle tank almost overflowed. I think that if Management had explained why this procedure was different from other less critical procedure, the technician would have paid more attention and understood the criticality of the procedure step. They became complacent. Managements mindset was don't think just write.
 
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