In 1987, Jeff Salzman co-authored a little book entitled: Real World 101: How to Find a Job, Get Ahead, Do It Now, and Love It! A year or two later, Salzman spoke to a small group of our company managers and told what I think might be the best management story I ever heard.
It’s the story of a Tastee Freeze, the man who cleaned it and his boss. To insure the Tastee Freeze was cleaned properly, the manager made a list of all the necessary cleaning products and tools; drew up a little chart showing where everything in the supply closet went (color coded); and made a numbered list of the proper order for cleaning the Tastee Freeze. He couldn’t understand why the cleaning guy had trouble following his carefully thought out plan.
One day a new manager showed up at the Tastee Freeze and asked the cleaning guy what he did at the Tastee Freeze. The cleaning guy showed him the precisely organized supply closet; the list of approved mops and buckets; and the printed list of steps for cleaning the Tastee Freeze.
The new manager immediately tore up the lists and told the cleaning guy, “Look, I just want the cleanest Tastee Freeze in town. I don’t care how you do it or what supplies you use. If you run into a snag, let me know and I’ll try to help.”
I must confess that I was too often the first type of manager during the 25 years I “managed” others. All I really wanted was a clean Tastee Freeze but it was so much fun to pick out the mops and make the lists. Alas.