Workstream lead

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The anthropology of the office™

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Workstream lead /wɜːkstriːm/ /liːd/ (n.)

Sounds glamorous; isn’t.

Firstly, “lead” in this context means “a thing you tie a misbehaving dog to” and not “what Moses did to the Children of Israel”. A workstream lead is one engaged, on a temporary basis, to prod unwilling employees along a manifestly pointless “business change” program whereby outwardly useful staff will be distracted from whatever they are doing and instructed to strip paint off a bucket, so the bucket can be given to another employee to paint properly, so a third one can strip paint from it again. And so on.

Requires experience organising all-hands conference calls, walking through action logs and compiling dashboards full of RAG statuses. Until your contract runs out.

On change management

The very title “workstream lead” is self-directed puffery from the quill of a change manager. Of all the hornèd handmaidens of The Man, pity most this fellow.

No task is more Sisyphean, no cause more hopeless, no ambition more wretched, no sense of self-worth more forlorn than that of a consultant brought in to persuade old lags to embark upon a transformational journey none of them have the slightest interest in taking.

After six months of workstreams, weekly stakeholder check-ins, all-hands conference calls, key performance indicators, state-of-the-art governance metrics, deliverables and business cases galore — all presented with the unremitting youthful expectation that one can really change in the world for the better, to have sit there empty-handed in front of the COO and be utterly unable to explain why you haven’t produced a single useful thing, when there is a perfect, clinching and water-tight explanation — that every one of these tasks was utterly, profoundly idiotic and had no chance of generating anything beyond resentment and confusion — must be the most soul-destroying experience.

See also