A Lean Leaders Christmas reflections: Andreas Heinz: Sense and Respond Diary, December 23, 2010
Christmas has arrived.
For those who have grown up with western Christmas tradition this is a magical time. We remember how we stood as children in front of the Christmas tree with big eyes and curiosity for the parcels, silently listening to stories and songs while the snow fell just as silently outside.
After all the seasonal rush before Christmas, it has finally arrived and now a certain silence and reflection on the last year comes into the homes of many families. We step back and get distance. Relax and redirect our attention towards our beloved ones.
Different thoughts and a wider vision of life may come into our minds. A healing break of contemplation, walks in the snow and joyful family dinners. Mind and body get a rest, our professional ambition paused momentarily until the new year.
We might suddenly see our busy job life from another view point: Not from the productive, planning, executing side or simply getting through all the busy-busy-bang-bang work, but from our sense of achievement - what we now enjoy as a result of all that effort, and taking pride in knowing we tried our best.
Some of the busy-busy-bang-bang activities may also appear in a different, clearer light. For the moment we are not driven by it, in our reflections we see that much of it was pointless.
Daily we get pulled into the busy-busy-bang-bang noise, feeling a necessity to react quickly, reacting with no time to think, no time to reflect and choose what really makes sense. Noisy activity for the sake of activity creating the impression of motion without real progress. How do we stop the noise and listen for the right signals?
We have too few occasions when we allow ourselves to get distance or perspective on our daily tasks. Time for reflection is important, it provides a much needed course correction back to our purpose.
What can I say about the months of November and December which was driven by a lot of work and overtime? Effectiveness started to suffer as soon as the noisy workload took me off course, I lost my sense of direction and purpose because I had chosen to forsake reflection.
I did things where I said only after three days of activity: Oh, this could have been much simpler, a more effective way would have created more benefit. If I only had more time to think about a better approach… And even worse: While doing the work I felt, that something was wrong, that there might be a better, more elegant way with more benefits. I chose to ignore these thoughts, I was so busy getting it done, reacting to the busy-busy-bang-bang noise having lost the sound of purpose in all the clamor.
But it could be quite simple and does not need big seasonal events like Christmas for time out to reflect and think.
The really interesting question at the end is this, Is there a relationship between the level and quality of impact of this busy piece of work and how busy I am with all what I have to do? The less we manage to get moments in time to reflect and get distance, to learn and to experiment, the less we will progress in our effectiveness. And the less insights we receive about what the right things are.
The real job of reflection is not trying to find how fast we can do what we already do but how do we do things differently and better to create new value and possibilities?
I hope I can take a lot of this Christmas silence, reflection and distance into the new year. There are so many opportunities that are not seen, not thought about, not explored because we get too busy, too deep, too quick to action. We miss the signals and opportunities for great leaps by doing noisy, ultimately unproductive quick fixes.
I will remember to choose to go for the paper, coffee and pencil approach more often. I will consider how I can make it a standard for the planning and review of new work-tasks: A piece of paper, a coffee, a pencil and the good feeling that this will pay back not only in time, but also in quality and impact.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year full of distance, reflection and purpose.