Wednesday, October 25, 2017


The main thing I've learned over the years is that the McGuffin is nothing.

― Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock named the mysterious―and incidental―thing that triggers frenzy in a film the McGuffin.

Famous Hollywood McGuffins include the toy sled in Citizen Kane, the transfer papers in Casablanca, the black statue in The Maltese Falcon, the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, and the government secrets in North by Northwest.

Directors love McGuffins.

Managers do, too. Consultants call workplace McGuffins administrivia, which The Urban Dictionary defines as, "mindless bureaucratic tasks imposed on workers by management in order to crush the soul and prevent one from achieving anything useful or fulfilling."

McGuffinish time-wasters are inescapable. The seven worst are:

  • Deciphering thoughtless emails 
  • Learning seldom-used software platforms 
  • Attending purposeless meetings 
  • Assembling management reports 
  • Explaining the obvious to untrained people 
  • Explaining what everybody heard, but no one else wrote down 
  • Redoing good work 
If McGuffins like these are triggering frenzy during your day, my advice is:
Until you learn to deal with workplace McGuffins, you'll never get off the crazy-making, value-destroying treadmill.
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