Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Chairs and Charts

It’s been a month this week, so I’ll focus instead on something positive.

We all know that chairs have legs.  What many of us don’t know is that they sometimes develop the ability to walk.  Particularly out of classrooms.

In one building, for reasons unknown, the chairs have been particularly frisky.  From day to day, they turn up (or not) where they aren’t supposed to be.  It would be cute, except that sometimes students need them for classes.  Telling a student who may not be entirely sure about this whole “college” thing in the first place that there isn’t a seat for him isn’t a good look.  

I can’t imagine that there’s a black market in relatively unforgiving classroom chairs.  I’ve never been approached by someone in a parking lot in a trenchcoat with a bunch of chairs under it.  They don’t seem to turn up on craigslist or ebay.  Pawnshops aren’t overflowing with our chairs, as far as I know. It’s a mystery.

In a more perfect world, replacing chairs wouldn’t be much harder than ordering them.  But budgets being what they are, “minor capital” is one of the first things to go.  

That’s where other channels are useful.

Experienced admins know that most organizations have multiple org charts.  There’s the official org chart with reporting lines; that’s important for the usual reasons.  But there are also various unofficial ones.  

Unofficial org charts tell you who is revered within the culture, who is connected to whom on a personal level, and who has otherwise-unsuspected abilities.  It’s the informal knowledge that provides context for what might otherwise seem inexplicable,  Some people have “tribal elder” status, and can carry messages that others can’t.  Some are interpreters.  Some are close personal friends with powerful people.

And some just know where chairs are.  They’re able to summon them from the ether.  You just have to know to ask.

Having asked the right person, stacks of chairs have appeared.  

Unofficial org charts can take a while to discern.  Sometimes you decipher them by accident, as when a seemingly rational move elicits a wildly disproportionate response.  But sometimes they provide the extra knowledge that makes an apparent dilemma solvable.  

I still don’t know where the chairs have been going, but a tip of the cap to the unofficial org chart for finding new ones.  Sometimes help comes from unpredictable places.