parks and rec work management
September 20, 2018

6 Ways Work Management Tools Would Have Ruined Parks & Rec

By Heather Hurst | Senior Director of Corporate Marketing at Workfront


Hi, I’m Heather Hurst, and this is a blog post. In this introduction, I would like to introduce the topic of my blog post, and that topic is: what would have happened to the Parks & Rec team if they had access to modern work management tools?

If you’re a fellow fan of American sitcom Parks & Rec, which ran on NBC from 2009-2015, you may have noticed that I began this blog post in the style of fictional newscaster Perd Hapley, host of “Ya’ Heard with Perd.”

Drawing further on the words of Perd, “Issue number one is the first thing we’re going to talk about.” So that’s where we’ll start: with the first way that today’s work management solutions would have changed the way the Pawnee Parks & Rec department got things done—or didn’t, as the case may be. Followed by five more ways.

1. No More Binders for Leslie Knope

The story of Leslie’s binders is: they are colorful. You see, Amy Poehler’s adorably optimistic character, Leslie Knope, is ultra organized, with meticulously assembled binders that help her plan everything from her run for city council (“They’re color-coded, for God’s sake!”) to the town’s emergency preparedness plan to her best friend Ann Perkins’ fertility treatments. But if the Pawnee city government had a work management solution, Leslie could accomplish all of that and more directly from her desktop or smartphone, and that running gag would be a goner.

2. Entertainment 720 Might Have Had a Chance

When young entrepreneur Tom Haverford and his rich friend Jean-Ralphio partnered for their short-lived Entertainment 720 start up (a “premiere, high-end, all-media entertainment conglomerate”), it seemed doomed from the start. After all, it was located in Pawnee, Indiana, The Factory Fire Capital of America.

But their venture might have had a chance if they had built business cases for their projects against their spend. This practice might have prevented such extravagances as themed pillowcases and rugs, free iPads to everyone who walked in the door, and ex-Indiana Pacers small forward Detlef Schrempf being put on retainer to shoot free throws in the company lobby.

“I don’t know, man,” Schrempf says to the fledgling business moguls. “You have a lot of overhead here. Ever thought about scaling back a bit and focusing on building your client base?”

Tom’s reply: “We didn't hire you to give us business advice. We hired you to look pretty and shoot baskets.” Whoosh.

3. Ron Would Have to Deflect His Own Visitors

When someone comes in to meet with department head Ron Swanson, a right-wing curmudgeon who only “works” for the city in order to undermine government institutions, his assistant April Ludgate engages in creative acts of obstruction:

“How about June 50th? Do you think you could come back today at 2:65? Looks like the only other day he has open is Marchtember One-teenth. Does that work, sir?”

Then the phone rings, and April immediately hangs it up. Ron, who is carving a wooden goose in his office, smiles proudly.

In the boring real world, however, someone at Ron’s level would likely be sitting in the middle of an open-office environment, charged with managing his own schedule online. Much to Ron’s imagined horror, the digital transformation has not only brought us shared cloud-based calendars but also calendaring functions within work management software, which reflect every individual’s workload and availability.

With so much additional transparency, Ron would have to really up his game to get out of getting any work done. But one statistic from Workfront’s latest State of Work report might make him feel better—just 17% of us believe that within five years, employees will have visibility into the day-to-day work of both executives and peers.

On the upside for the hermit-like Ron, modern technology would enable him to regularly “work” from the seclusion of his home—which 38% of us believe will be encouraged by companies in the near future. However, this would necessitate at least one of Ron’s properties being on the grid.

So, if work management solutions were a reality in the Parks & Rec universe, Ron would be forced to be more productive, open, and visible, which would undermine a good portion of his appeal. And poor April would likely be out of a job.

4. Jerry Would Have Been Garry All Along

Parks & Rec viewers don’t find out until almost the end of the show’s run that the bumbling, mistreated character Jerry Gergich’s real name was actually Garry. “On my first day here, the old director—he called me Jerry, and I just didn't think I should correct him,” he explains. (The response, “Oh, God. Jerry. You can’t even get your own name right!”)

An Operational System of Record would have prevented such a hilarious mistake, since everyone on the team or in the company has a profile in the system, complete with name, title, and often a brief description of duties (“Ask me about…”). All updates and communications in the online workspace are accompanied by each individual’s name and thumbnail photo.

work management

I can’t count how many times I’ve used the search function in Workfront to discover the name or role of a new team member, find out how a name is spelled, remind myself who reports to whom, and locate other organizational details. But, I still wouldn’t put it past Jerry to misspell his own name, even in a system as intuitive as Workfront. After all, he accidentally renamed himself Larry Gengurch in season 6.

5. The Pawnee-Eagleton Merger Would Have Gone Better

When the town of Pawnee (motto: “First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity”) decides to absorb neighboring Eagleton, their longtime rival, things don’t go well. Collaboration is challenging for teams with such different cultures. After all, Eagleton town hall meetings include valet parking and complimentary porcini mushroom and Boursin cheese crepes. Pawnee, on the other hand, is more famous for the Paunch Burger Dinner for Breakfast burger combo. (“What’s in it? Who cares! How many calories? Shut up!”)

To make collaboration easier, the two competing teams could rely on the transparency of work management software to be their “single source of truth,” reducing friction and interpersonal conflict. If director Ron Swanson and his hippie Eagletonian counterpart Ron Dunn were skeptical of the efficacy of such a system, as they would be, they could just look to a real-life case study from a fellow government bureaucracy: the State of Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts.

In this case, project managers who deployed Workfront’s work management software were enabled to easily collaborate with the right people on projects from the start, and they now had the ability to tag specific team members to communicate status updates, make date changes, or ask questions. As a result, meetings got both shorter and more productive. While the team used to scramble to complete projects 60% of the time, that figure has since been reduced to 10%. In another case study, this one for Citrix, the director was able to reduce his email load by 35% and the time spent in compliance meetings by 50% after onboarding a work management solution.

Results like these would be a mixed blessing to Ron Swanson and his anti-government agenda; while he would welcome shorter compliance meetings (if not no compliance meetings) and much less email, he’d have no interest in making anything more productive.

6. The New Town Motto Would Be Spelled and Punctuated Correctly

Without a well-defined and repeatable process to review and approve assets—from artwork and videos to a town’s brand new motto—errors are easily introduced and propagated. This clip of Jerry leading a town meeting is a great example of just such a problem. The panel members in charge are either clueless, overly polite, or afraid of causing offense, which causes a problematic motto (“When you’re here, than you’re home”) to progressively get worse (“When your here, than your home”).

While it would admittedly be less interesting to watch live, hosting this entire process in a centralized, collaborative space would make it easier to spot spelling errors, allow Leslie to suggest corrections more diplomatically, and provide a neutral space for comparing alternative ideas side by side.

There You Have It

Again in the style of journalist Perderick L. Hapley, I’ll conclude with the conclusion to this blog post. And I’ll do that by saying, “there you have it.” Where ‘it’ is the thing I just wrote about this situation. And the thing that I wrote was: if Parks & Rec had modern work management tools, Leslie would have no binders, Tom might have become a successful entrepreneur, Garry would never have been Jerry or Larry or Barry or even Lenny, the merger with Eagleton would have been a productive yawn-fest, and Pawnee could boast a grammatically correct town motto. But let’s be honest, as long as Ron Swanson was in charge, he never would have let any of those things happen. And that is my conclusion.



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