Are you an in-betweener?

In my last post about communicating risk I introduced the term “in-betweener”. I’ll wait for the grammar nazi’s to correct how I’ve put that word together but the idea is that an in-betweener is someone who exists in an organisation between those or really benefit from some kind of activity and those who execute that activity.

Those who execute an activity are often rewarded on a time and materials basis because they provide professional services. Those who benefit from it usually derive benefit indirectly from the activity by gaining some kind of business advantage.

The question is – how do you tell if you are an in-betweener? Well – the first thing to note is that it isn’t only the top level executives in the organisation who benefit from successful activities – middle managers _can_ be rewarded by business activity – this is where those bonuses come in.

So are you an in-betweener? The easiest way to tell is look at your actual behaviours. Do you spend a lot of time producing documents that prove that “its not your fault” by deferring all the decision making to someone else. If so – you are an in-betweener. Some people are happy with this role and do it well, but its not for me.

If you want to get out of that in-betweener status then you need to change the risk reward ratio. Do this by talking to the invested decision makers who often hold the purse strings about being rewarded for successful project implementations and removing any incentives that you get automatically just for breathing in and out.

Even if you can’t negotiate a better deal, being an in-betweener to me seems like a pretty sad existence. Why not just take a few risks – crash and burn if they are realised but enjoy a boost in credibility if they come through – after all not all rewards need to be monetary.


7 thoughts on “Are you an in-betweener?

  1. Darren Neimke

    Hah! Your post (and a tweet by Hanselman) reminded me of the Dr Seuss book – “Did I ever tell you how lucky you are”. In it, there is a bee that is important, so the citizens (of a place called Hawtch) get one of their folk to ‘watch’ it. Then they realize that he might not do his job, so they get someone to watch him. Voila! An intant layer of middle management 🙂

    The Bee Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee Watcher.
    He didn’t watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
    had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
    And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
    are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
    Watch-Watching the Watcher who’s watching that bee.
    You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher. You’re lucky, you see!!!

  2. Darren Neimke

    In that Dr Seuss book… the whole town ends up “watching”:

    Bee <- Watcher <- Watcher-Watcher <- etc

    I think that management layers get that way too if we are not careful. In the story, the bee is the only one doing any real work, the rest is redundancy.

    Work creates more work. So you add a “watcher” and then there’s a whole lot of overhead that you get instantly. So they become fully utilized with overhead and another “watcher” is required – to relieve the burden and to provide a level of backup and support. Etc.

    The problem once you have a chain of command like that is that each person in the chain gets to apply their own set of logic to decision making.

    I’m not saying that supporting layers provide no value – they do. It’s just that the systems in which they operate are so often faulty and therefore people just act the way people do.

  3. Kieran Jacobsen

    At my company those who are an “in-betweener” are the ones who will always get the salary reviews, mainly because management sees more of them than those who make decisions on their own and work independantly. Another thing to point out is we have a layer of management in one part whose prime existence is to hide what was called “that complicated computer stuff” by an EVP. In otherwords, he needed an entire layer of management so he could understand the decisions he was told to make…

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