"Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. [Humans] alone measure time. [Humans] alone chime the hour. And, because of this, [humans] alone suffer a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out." (edited, source: James Clear)
Said simply, "Time is undefeated." (Rocky Balboa)
Upon reflecting on a little over a year of driving transformational change across a multitude of teams--tackling diverse growth challenges--around the world, a few insights consistently cut through:
"Change is inevitable, growth is optional." (John Maxwell). The unlearning process is considerably more difficult than we imagine and yet is the single largest contributor to unlocking new behaviors and habits, which will inevitably lead to new (perhaps even better) outcomes.
“Unfinished projects can’t compound.” (James Clear) We will unconsciously--and stubbornly--fill time with activities unrelated to the problem or opportunity at hand. This usually leads to unfinished projects that drag on with no end in sight; or worse, the tracking of said project becomes the job in and of itself. We then lose sight of why we started this work in the first place. To resolve, firm and aggressive time boxing is the key.
It's priority, not priorities. We unwittingly believe that by focusing on one thing we are ignoring, or somehow insulting?, the other things. As a result, we sub-optimize our time and output despite the multitude of research that shows the benefit of mono-tasking.
Diagnose slowly so that you can execute efficiently. I have a tremendous bias for action and will get visibility frustrated when I observe teams getting bogged down in irrelevant details and/or bureaucracy. That said, I have learned the critical importance of precisely and deliberately diagnosing the problem while concurrently helping teams through the psychology of change. This is as much art as it is science as the default of most teams is analysis paralysis. I’ve found that breaking down the problem as small as possible (but not too small--focus on span of control and the ability to make impact within the agreed time box) provides teams the “scaffolding” (that will lead them to their desired outcome) and the autonomy to execute quickly. Red Team Thinking’s application of the Cynefin Framework is a useful tool.
Growth requires skeptics and idealists. Anton Ego said it best, “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and [themselves] to our judgment. ... But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.” Change by its very nature introduces resistance; for some, this resistance is driven by a deep loss of control and/or a deep loss of identity, especially when the change program directly impacts their role. You need idealists and optimists--with their boundless energy--to help pull the team up the adoption curve while concurrently leveraging the superpowers of the skeptics to co-create a transformative fact-based solution. I have found, however, that there is a fine line between being productively critical versus unyieldingly, time-consumingly negative; thus, be mindful of cynics and dogmatic sycophants--they have already made up their mind and end up being time and energy vampires.
Finally, as cliche as it sounds, above all, mindsets & attitudes matter. I've been consistently amazed at the creativity, energy, humor, humility, and camaraderie of the individuals and teams I've had the privilege of working with--a testament to their commitment to delivering incremental value at speed. Proving that yes, change is hard, growth is even harder, but it is not impossible.
The clock is ticking...
So, what else?
During my brief stint as an adjunct professor many years ago, I recall that half of my students had dreams of one day starting their own business. One of my favorite parts of the teaching night was when I presented a random idea and asked the students to put on the brainstorm lens - "what else could you do with this...". Most of the time we would end up in the realm of the zany. Sometimes, however, we would actually land on something achievable and plant the seed. This is an homage to ideas - zany or otherwise.