It is terribly, brutally cold outside. Not as cold as it is in the Midwest, but colder than it has been in this – relatively – milder winter (and my employees from Michigan and Wisconsin always complained that it was colder in New York because of the wind-chill).
This morning, my phone said 3° when I woke up. And my office, which has two walls of windows is on the wrong side of the wall that someone put up to turn a dining room into a bedroom – wrong side because the heater is on the other side of the wall. So, although I have a radiant foot warmer, a chair warmer, and wear top and bottom long underwear, fleece-lined leggings, a turtleneck, a down vest, really thick socks, and fingerless gloves while I work, I’ve been chilly since November, surviving on endless cups of hot herbal tea.
Last night when my husband came home, he warned me that it was really cold outside. On top of what I’d been wearing all day, I added a pair of jeans and the hooded coat that I received when I went to Antarctica, fleece-lined boots, a scarf, a thick hat with ear warmers, glove liners, two pairs of gloves, and a pair of down-filled mittens. All so I could make my appointment for my monthly haircut.
It was a little overkill and people stared at me on the subway. But I was warm. And my hair really needed a trim.
Sometimes when people tell us how hard something is going to be, we overprepare. We invest a lot of time trying to address every possibility, making our work as perfect as possible so that no cracks can appear where criticism can penetrate and chill our hearts.
People sometimes do this with weddings. If I just add this, move this, perfect this, get this line a little straighter, get the shade of the coloring just a hair more…exact? It will transform my work from mediocre to splentabulous. Honestly, most people won’t notice – and the ones who do, have such an eye for design that they whatever you do will not impress them. Once you have an eye for design, it’s pretty rare that you don’t want to redesign everything to fit your aesthetic. My former team has told me that I can be that way with words.
A couple of years ago, I was working on a report about the impact of the merchandising calendar on sales and payroll-productivity in the stores. I told myself that the report was going to be so bullet-proof that it would compel change, that people wouldn’t be able to read it without waking up. It included data, graphs, quotes, survey results, it was visually-stimulating, told a story. I worked on it for six months (in between my other work), and it never saw the light of day because I kept reworking it, trying to make it more and more perfect, more and more bullet-proof.
What are we protecting ourselves against when we bundle up our work so warmly? Our own fears that it isn’t good enough, that we don’t know enough, that we aren’t good enough? That if we bundle it in enough layers, people won’t notice what is under all that protective padding? That the vulnerable core won’t be exposed to the possibly biting elements around us?
In my case, I knew deep in my heart, that no amount of evidence, no matter how well-presented or compelling was going to persuade the VP whose mind it was intended to change – she was unable to accept any information that didn’t support her world-view and was likely to take my report as an attack on her personally, one that she must refute with venom and spite. Which is, indeed, what she did when she was presented with a soupcon on the data. I knew it, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.
I see this sometimes now with clients – we start out projects agreeing that we will start simply, achieve small, quick wins and, once the change is rolled out and stores are on board, rapidly expand to include more functionality, more corporate users, more-sophisticated labor models, revised time studies.
So we start simply, and, as configurations progress and clients learn more about the ridiculously endless options and features, they forget our original agreement to start simply. They start wanting to turn everything on, to add more features, to customize functionality – all of which requires more testing, revisions to the eLearning and training offshoots, more files that IT has to produce with data that they have to sort, and which must be validated.
They can’t believe that it can be this fast and easy to implement the core functionality; they start to doubt the value of the software and they pile on more and more last minute requirements, until it seems you’ll never get it into pilot and out the door. I’ve come to see this as a form of resistance, a natural part of the implementation change management cycle. One that must be planned for and addressed throughout the journey.
It would be foolish to go out unprepared into this cold. But, as my venture last night taught me, when you wear three pairs of gloves and a pair of down mittens, it’s impossible to get your subway card out of your pocket. You have to remove some layers to interact with the world around you, risk letting a little weather penetrate the envelope of protective warmth you’ve cocooned yourself in.
You can’t get to Soho if you can’t get your Metrocard out of your pocket because your mittens are too thick. And, when you have your hood up, your field of vision is narrowed to the point where you can’t see where you’re going.
So stay warm – just not too warm. And know when to risk a bite of fresh air.