John's Jottings

115. Who Needs to Plan? - January 2016

Posted on January 2, 2016 at 5:25 AM

At the Friday evening set-up at the recent Highsteads show, the layout opposite ours was in total disarray. They seemed to be short of both baseboards and manpower. Later we found out that the layout manager never clearly announces which members of his team are to attend each day, and in whose cars they and the layout pieces are to travel. All the arrangements are made in one-to-one conversations, and he commits everything to memory.


“That sounds as if the layout manager thought he was controlling a spy ring,” Fred observed with a smile. “Maybe each operator was only told what he needed to know, and was kept in the dark about the overall plan and everybody else’s role in it. Perhaps he did not want information to fall into the wrong hands, just like in espionage novels.”


It seems that the layout manager’s arrival at Highsteads had been delayed and no other member of his team knew enough of the arrangements to make alternative plans. They did eventually sort themselves out, but being ready was a close run thing on the Saturday morning.


Perhaps the layout manager was not a very good planner,” Jane suggested. “If he didn’t make plans widely know, nobody was in a position to criticise them.”


While discussing this over lunch at Highsteads with some other exhibitors, we heard of a different club and layout manager who took a contrasting approach. Once he knew which operators and cars were available for each day, he’d draw up a Travel Plan, setting out drivers, their passengers and cargo. Copies were circulated a couple of weeks before the show. And woe betide any team member who hadn’t read and acted upon them.


Another sheet gave participants all the information they would need about the exhibition: address of venue, name of exhibition manager and his mobile number, dates and times of opening for exhibitors and for public, the ‘team sheet’ for each day, their pick-up and arrival times, arrangements for unloading and loading, car parking, lunch and drink arrangements, and so on. Every team members’ address and phone numbers were also included.


“This seems like administrative over-enthusiasm on his part,” Paul commented, dismissively. “Totally unnecessary. He’s just a control freak.”


We were told this procedure had come into its own when the layout manager was taken ill. Everybody in his team could find out quickly what he was down to do and when, so that alternative arrangements could be made with the minimum of fuss. Even the reserve member knew at once who was picking him up, at what time and where. The weekend went just as smoothly as when the layout manager was there. Indeed, it even drew questions as to why they needed a layout manager in the first place.


But of course, for arrangements to run smoothly, in spite of last minute problems, someone has to sit down and systematically draw up the scheme, and then confirm with his team that all was do-able, and they were happy to put the plan into operation.


“It can be a problem for layout managers to find the middle way,” our chairman observed. “Super-efficiency can be off-putting. But on the other hand, incompetence can be more disastrous. The former only annoys some of the exhibition team, while the latter can jeopardise the standing of the layout and the club with both public and exhibition managers.” We agreed that getting the balance right was indeed a fine judgement. As our chairman put it: “Acting like an 007 is no way to deal with an 00-16.5 !”


Categories: None