The Getaway Ploy Explored

I'm trying to stretch my writing muscles by producing longer posts outside of the typical FileMaker geek genre. I posted this to my FileMaker Business Explored blog today but wanted to cross post it to here as well. I welcome your thoughts and impressions!


From Dwayne Wright - Certified FileMaker 9 Developer
TWITTER: dwaynewright

Chapter X: The Human Factor

The Getaway Ploy is a term often associated when an individual seems to disappear at a key point in a project. These individuals may simply be on an extended coffee break, attending meetings where their presence isn’t critical, experience car trouble or come down with some mystery illness that prevents them from coming into the office.

The first time I heard of this technique was coined by a coworker of mine back in the late 1980s. We were both retail computer sales people that were hired on the same day. He worked at the south location and I worked at the north. Our store manager lived in a small town about 20 miles from the south store. My good friend coined the term MBNBT (Management By Not Being There) and got into some very hot water when our manager found out about the term. We used to laugh about how a 20 mile trip to the office could take three hours or more. This was before Austin had a traffic problem and long before individuals could be reached via mobile phones. Indeed, my former manager was utilizing the getaway ploy and the wheels rarely fell off the cart in his absence.

Although I’ve never employed the technique myself, I feel the problem isn’t always with the person that is executing the getaway ploy. There may be valid reasons for the use of the ploy and that might be a real SHOCKER to the managers that have it performed upon them.

It may help if you take the time to examine the different levels of the getaway ploy and the conditions that can trigger them. For much of the rest of this discussion, I’m going to talk about some experiences I’ve had with other projects and other team members I’ve worked with on projects.

OK, here is a quick list of the conditions that can trigger the getaway ploy, based upon personal history. This can be applied to a project, a phase of a project or just a milestone in the development of the project.

- unreasonable completion dates
- inadequate resources for the task at hand
- inadequate support from other team members
- unexpected technology failure
- real world events encroachment
- too many distractions that break focus or momentum
- too much micromanagement or not enough micromanagement

and then there is the also real life things such as ...

- the person is not qualified to complete the task
- the person hasn’t taken the time to complete the task
- the person screwed up while working on the task
- the person is a liar (sorry, but that sometimes happens)

Many times, the getaway ploy is a silent call for help.

In the office environment, you may see a person with their laptop in a coffee shop or cafeteria. They are way off in the corner by themselves, feverishly working away. This is a reasonable and often times acceptable use of the getaway ploy. In these cases, the person is really trying to do the work and they just need a place they can focus without interruptions. As the manager, you need to recognize when this is the case and extend trust to the person. Later after the event passes, you may need to have an open dialog about this, so you are both on the same page when similar conditions arise in the future.

HOW THE GETAWAY PLOY IS PLAYED (Negative But Salvageable)

If a key individual is sick, has car problems or any other reoccurring event that prevents their interaction at a key element of a project, something needs to be done. My tendency is to have a “storm the beaches” approach and directly ask them about it but try to do it in a conversational way. I’m a big fan of open and frank conversation but not one of confrontation. Although I respond well to this approach, there is a significant number of others that will not. There are some people that will not address negative issues in this manner, not matter how warm and fuzzy it is addressed. In my experience, the people that suffer from this problem the most are among the most valuable assets of the company. In cases like this, you have to be more patient and creative at addressing the issue.

I worked with a fellow developer that was a master at the getaway ploy and many other ploys of a similar nature. He went longer, doing less than I had ever imagined possible. It was a work of art and a display of expert timing. If the final result wasn’t so hurtful for everyone else around, I would admire the effort the guy put into the masquerade. It was a strong violation of trust within the management of the company and everyone suffered because of it. This situation just drove home that in a developer environment, micromanagement checks and balances are a must and something that even the most honest and dedicated developer needs to endure.

So some getaway ploys are bad, some are good and in a rare occasion they can be really, really bad. In many ways, the getaway ploy cannot be foiled but you can attack the reasons that contribute to it becoming a viable option. Successfully completing a number of smaller milestones can take away the fear and uncertainty of the big event. If the big event (a rollout of a new database for example) seems like a slam dunk, then the last thing someone wants to do is be missing at the moment of success.

These are my thoughts on the issue but I certainly welcome your feedback. Please feel free to add your comments below or email me at
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© 2009 - Dwayne Wright -

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