Nearly everyone experiences the frustration of unexpected change. Patterns of life and work flow are often interrupted by innovations that don’t make sense. Everything from software and TV remotes to roadways and voting locations. Change typically comes without much explanation and while the reasons are evident to engineers and developers, others are often outside that bubble.
Users are typically told what is new, but seldom are they told the why behind it. In some cases the explanation given is so broad it’s almost worthless. “To improve traffic safety” or ” to enhance the customer experience.”
Leaving out the why happens in part because it isn’t needed to sell products. Sales is driven by short term what and who.Why is only needed if it helps complete the transaction. Technical support, customer service, trainers, and elected officials are left to sort through questions of why things changed, often without solid answers.
The result of the non-answers they provide is often frustration. Yet with a little explaining on the front end, those who are interested in the why can become strong advocates for “What’s New.” They’ll be less resistant when they get a glimpse of the reasoning behind the changes. Assuming those reasons make sense.
Converting what into why can give advocates more reason to support the change. If it can be explained well, others will share the story. If not, people will make efforts to point out a speculative why, and chances are that speculation with be negative. “They changed it because they’re idiots.” Don’t give them the opportunity.
Take what the engineers, planners, and developers know and put it in terms those impacted by the change can easily understand. Building the right story around the boring details can go along towards increasing confidence in your organization.
True story. A couple living in Georgia drives to Utah to visit family. While in Colorado they see a sign that says ‘Shortest route to Salt Lake City’ and they decide to follow the sign and take the road. The highway changes from four lanes to two, and eventually becomes a dirt road. They know they’ve gone down the wrong road but they keep driving for a while before turning around and finding a highway that takes them to their intended destination.
What is the point of this story? Often we know we’ve gone down the wrong path long before we’re ready to turn around. Sometimes we’re hoping to find another way out. Other times it may simply be the stubbornness of the commitment.
Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to remember that recognition of error doesn’t always equal instant correction. Not in ourselves or in others.
It takes courage to accept a mistake when an individual, couple, or group is committed to a process. Especially when most others will never know how far things have veered off course. They may never know, and what they do know doesn’t matter.
What matters is that individuals make the choice to accept where they are, turn around, and make the journey back even if it requires covering some of the same ground.
We live in an era of recreational criticism. For many, being critical of nearly everything and everyone has become an acceptable form of entertainment. This is nothing new for government officials and others in the public eye. They have long been targets of criticism. Rightly so, in many cases, yet the rush to find and magnify less developed or unrefined areas within organizations and individuals typically serves no purpose.
What is troubling is the tendency among critics to continue to criticize long after the events of their angst have passed without looking back, evaluating the current situation, and determining if their criticism is still valid. As if the critic reserves the right to dictate who can change and progress and who cannot.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than among those who post comments online anonymously. The temptation to throw rocks from behind the shelter of anonymity is intoxicating. The thrill and vanity of being a faceless voice in the public square keeps the critic from recognizing that the gift anonymity has become a cloak of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy never looks back at its own shadow. It has no rearview mirrors. It expects but never offers apology. What power is there in an anonymous apology? The shelter of anonymity eliminates the need for the critic to account for anything.
In a day of increasing transparency, perhaps it’s time for the critic to reevaluate the point of aimless words and find a more constructive hobby.
There is no shame in admitting the present is not the past. Everyone has the right to change. Even the critic.
Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.
After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”
The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years. Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.
After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost. Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.
Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.
Remember that great work place tool called the telephone? You know, that thing with the the handle and buttons you speak into? Email is a wonderful tool and Instant Messaging (IM) is also a nice way to communicate, yet there is something about actually speaking directly to another person that is often superior.
Yes, IM can be a great way to “multi-task” when you are on an endless conference call. Email is wonderful for documenting expectations and commitments as well as sharing data.
Still, how many times have you found yourself responding to a question via Email or IM that you could have answered over the phone in a fraction of the time you spent typing, waiting for a reply, typing, waiting, etc?
Never forget the speed and clarity of personal voice.
Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.
The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.
We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.
At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.
While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.
Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.
The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.
What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.
When a tent post is put in place everything rises. Be a tent post in your world. As you rise to do your duty, to be your best, everything and everyone around you is blessed. Choose to put forth the effort to be better at what you do and better at who you are.
Who are the tent posts in your life? Who has made your world better, your horizons wider, and you insights deeper because of their choices? Who are your examples for how to be?
In every aspect of life, we choose our leaders. It’s true that someone may be assigned to represent and guide us and, for a time, we may be obligated to follow, but if our heart isn’t in it we will choose someone else.
Others have chosen to look to you for guidance in some aspect of their life. They may never mention it and you may never know exactly when or where you made a difference. Your circle of influence is probably wider than you think. Each of us can choose our actions but we can never choose the consequences. So stand tall, lift from where you stand, and be true.