After reading the above article, you know that somewhere early in the design phase, someone made an error. A small mistake in the context of all the engineering required to build a submarine. However, the fact that nobody caught the error means that the final design and fabrication created a very expensive anchor that will now rest on the ocean floor if not fixed.
If we embrace the assumptions that everything that was completed before our part of the project was accurate and correct, then we are in for a few surprises. Nobody intentionally hands us the error-strewn project. Our willing to revisit the work we inherited often gives us a greater appreciation for the depth of thought but also the embedded faults.
We are better for the proof-readers, editors, curious minds, and insightful questions. A culture of curiosity builds on that which went before and hopefully identified the moment we made a wrong-turn or fateful decision.
“Michael, you’ve had two ideas today. And one of them was great. And the other one was terrible.” – Pam Beesley, The Office
The challenge for all of us is to understand which of our collective ideas are great and which ones are terrible. It may seem obvious when Michael Scott is standing in a parking lot spelling out ‘Marry Me’ with a canister of gasoline and asking Pam, “Hey you know what? I’ve got gas all over my hands and my shoes. Would you light it? Would you do the honors please?.”
The work that matters is when two ideas are indistinguishable at a glance. The one that makes the organization better may cause more uncertainty than the idea that feels safer. That is why we assemble a board, to make sense of the terrain that sits in front of us.
What is your great idea? Which idea did you pass on that turned out to be a major liability? What is your Kodak Films passing on digital images moment?
Seth Godin is the master of keeping it simple. I borrow his expression ‘doing the work that matters’ frequently. Seth’s blog post simplifies the difference between choices and decisions and our confusing of the two. We encounter choices in our real-time wayfinding process. What if we streamlined our efforts by making quick choices, so we open bandwidth to focus on the decisions that matter. Make a game of choosing by spinning a wheel, asking the opinion of the next person we encounter, selecting the adventurous route, or going left. Decisions impact the work that matters and requires time and information. Which TSA security lane to stand in at the airport is a choice. Which person to join you for a month-long expedition is a decision. Make time for the decisions that matter, few remember how quickly you navigated TSA, but many benefit from your decision to commit to the mission.
A template for a spinning wheel if you are game to choose differently.
When we tell people why there is a hazard, decision, or rule it creates the opportunity for alignment. We can share in taking responsibility. If we simply state, ‘do not walk here,’ it creates questions. But if we tell people that the cliff is eroded and fallen into the sea then we might agree that it is a wise to take precautions.