Know what to do before you do it

One of the things that I always notice in my work life is how I look at things differently from most of my peers. It always surprises me, though I should be well used to it by now. Basically it seems to me that I see more – both broader and deeper. Or rather I don’t see, but look. It’s not a passive activity, but at the same time it’s so natural to me to be instinctive. I don’t understand how people can’t look in the same way. It might seem simple, but if I didn’t do it then in its place would be a set of questions that would force me to look. Basically, the question is what the implications are of this action/solution? Not just what it is doing directly, but what the indirect consequences will be.

I had this conversation with Cheeseboy last week. Like me he is a professional in this field – by that I mean not someone acting in such a role, but someone with a variety of experience and steeped in the finer points of it. He smiled and agreed exactly with what I said. Our perspective is of people who have been involved in myriad projects and understand the basic requirements to ensure their success. We’ve done it so often and for so long that it’s in our bones. It’s different for someone elevated into such a position from a different area. They don’t have that background to call upon, nor the learning to guide them. I know, I was once such a person (20 years ago), but I learned.

It’s the difference between someone who has travelled widely and experienced different cultures and been tested by unexpected events, and the person who has travelled not at all. One is seasoned by experience and has the confidence at having done it, and the other by comparison has been sheltered from that variety of experience and culture, and hasn’t been forced from their comfort zone. Where I’m working, as in many places, it’s the stay at homes who are ruling the roost – because they have stuck around.

A major consequence of that is that root cause analysis barely exists. It’s of immense frustration to me when I want to focus on the cause of the problem rather than the mere effects of it. That’s discouraged though, or seen as a waste of time. I told Cheeseboy it was like going to the doctor with a brain tumour and given a headache pill for the pain. It’s not a solution.

I find when I point it out that people either twig to it or show utter indifference. It’s not all naivety or ignorance. There is often a wilful aspect to it. People like me are a pedantic nuisance. And often times the indifference is because the direct results are all they care about. That’s the headline issue that must be dealt with. Everything comes secondary to that, and if the indirect effects are in different areas then who cares? Not our responsibility. Not our problem.

I can’t think that way even if I wanted to. My CV refers to holistic I think twice, and accurately. I don’t believe in compartmentalising my thinking when everything you do has dependencies and consequences. Nothing is isolated; everything is connected.

Of course this means I am often frustrated forced to concern myself with a corner of the picture when the whole canvas is in play. So much of business is that these days, divided by vested interests, separate priorities and narrow perspectives. The holistic view hardly exists, and as a result the picture as a whole is a series of separate tinkerings and re-adjustments as one action here has an impact on something over there, but without the overarching and managed view of how it all fits together.

I’ve now backed off quite a lot. I’m happy to be outspoken when called upon, but in general I’ll keep my mouth shut unless it directly impacts me. More often than not I hear the conversations about me and roll my eyes at what I hear. To be fair many of the people having those conversations are rolling their eyes too, but they’re not running the show. I accept that a level of incompetence or disorganisation appears to be inevitable. If that’s how they want to run their projects that’s their problem. For my projects I follow the protocols and procedures I always have, and to date every one of my projects has been implemented successfully, and without drama – touch wood.

It’s not really that hard. In fact a lot of it is common sense. You just need to know what you’re getting into before you get into it.

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