Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Indispensible Man

A long time ago, Meta Grimm was in the US Navy, and stationed in San Diego, about as far as can be from his relatives, and still stationed in the US, without going to Alaska.

Because of this, he liked to take his annual 30 days of leave in one chunk, so as to maximize time at home without losing too much time to travel. It worked great, until one year, his ship went into refit and he got a new division officer.

When he put in his request for 25 days’ leave, his division officer denied it, stating that Meta’s experience in the comm shack (he was the lead radio tech) meant that he needed to be there while the ship was being refit.

All denied leave requests must be reviewed by the Captain. The Captain reversed the divo’s decision, stating to all concerned, “No man is indispensible. If someone becomes indispensible, we need to fix it. So fix it.”

This captain was correct, of course. Meta Grimm benefited from this, but in the end the Captain’s main interest was in the safety of all hands. If so much hinged on one person being there, the ship was inherently endangered. One well-placed missile could render the ship’s voice and data communications mute, permanently, rather than temporarily if a qualified tech was around to fix it.

Captains get paid good moniez to think about this kind of stuff.

Is your raid endangered?

Apropos of something, I have been considering that series of events in terms of raiding in WoW. A small guild can find its raids hanging on the presence or absence of one or two people. One of those people want to go watch a movie? Eat dinner? Not have the money to play this week? Just want a break? They’re screwed. Nobody’s getting frosties tonight, folks, sorry.

Indispensible raider, it’s not your problem

As Meta learned in 1986, sometimes you have to walk away and trust that things will attend to themselves. He had three capable petty officers working for him, all with a decent level of seniority. There was no reason that one of them could not step in and learn the ropes; and so it was that one of them did. When it was time to go on vacation, he walked down the pier, got in his car, and went on a 2800 mile road trip without giving it another thought. The ship survived the dangerous refit, and they even had work left over for Grimm when he returned.

In the same light, any raider should be able to sit out a raid night and not be overly concerned. Any raider should be able to take a night off without worrying that things are being tanked, or healed, or whatevered, properly. If you’re not there, it’s not your concern.

Raiders, you got a problem, and it isn’t the indispensible raider

The problem is that there is an indispensible raider, and the raid as a whole needs to come to terms with that and work out a plan for shuffling around the gap. The raid leader, especially, should have a plan of action for dealing with any particular key role’s players being gone.

Don’t want to do the right thing by your raiders? Well, let me put it a bit less altruistically for you. If you continue on with indispensible raid members, you’re vulnerable. To losing that person. To potential coercion by that person. To potential coercion by someone with influence over that person.

You’ve got a bag of problems to sort out, and none of them are on that person’s head.

Alternate routes

Every guild seems to have at least one or two altoholics. They are prime resources for this sort of situation. There is a good chance that they could step in with whatever role you need.  The trick is to keep the alts “healthy” so that they can step in at the level you need them at.

This does mean that at least one member of the raid will be sub-optimal for gear, etc, simply because playtime gets spread out over multiple toons. However, the benefit of having one or two backup plans more than makes up for it.

The other bright spot is that by virtue of shuffling different alts into that one slot each raid night, your raid learns how to reform around that changed slot. Let’s say that the altoholic has one of each role; tank, healer, DPS.  When that person runs heals, one of the other heals needs to change to compensate. When that person runs tank, one of the tanks maybe switches to DPS. And so forth.

You don’t have to wait for damage to do damage control

With a little planning, forethought, and insight, a raid can adjust to any members’ absence. The key is to identify the vulnerability early on, and put in defensive measures so that it does not cripple your guild’s progression to let people have lives of their own.