Ever been the new person in the office (or new in a career) and felt the lurk of the I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW monster in your thinking? Or maybe you feel it as a leader?
It's not comfortable. And it's not easy to have to regularly bug others for answers.
Sure, it could be a good challenge to have to step into that learning, but it also easily generates hesitancy or avoidance in people's actions, ending up wasting time and creating unnecessary complications in what might already be complex work.
I remember the first time I tried to develop a visual solution in a design practice so we could see ahead in the project process and connect easily to WHAT’S NEXT, WHAT'S NEEDED and WHAT MIGHT HELP. I also thought it would be good if it could help leaders see, with a glance, where any one team was up to in the detail of the process on any one project, and then spark key conversations with added expertise about what might have been missed or what might be around the corner.
My boss at the time raised a dubious eyebrow and declared it a checklist of checklists.
Yes, it totally was. And he had totally missed the point…
Which I’m quite grateful for now actually, as I ended up building a whole new career on figuring out why people resist engagement and flow in systems.
Fast forward 12 years. A design practice owner recently spoke to me about the effect the (now infinitely more refined) one sheet Project Support Plan I had helped them with, was having on their operations.
He said that the way it visually mapped out the key control/review/input processes for each architectural project, had markedly helped to lift the quality of their work as a business over the past year since implementing it.
He said that their young people and those new to the business had expressed how they appreciate being able to see so clearly ‘what’s next’, as well as being able to connect so easily with specific support information and processes available to them.
He also said that he and his business partner now routinely ‘take a glance’ at the individual PSP’s to quickly see where they need to maybe ask a few questions and offer insight and support in their project teams (or not, for that matter).
And he told me all of this with the biggest smile on his face. Which made me happy for days, because it is never just about a system or process making sense on paper - it is always about greater connection, greater flow together and greater certainty and joy in work for people.
Take THAT you lurking uncertainty monster.
The future is in connective systems – which doesn’t necessarily eliminate all uncertainty, but it tells us on a daily basis that we’re in it together and that we can figure it out together.
So I think we all need to find ways to improve the framework and build our flow together – both in conversation and in the defined processes that support that conversation.