CXO

What does it take to stop?

So, we came to the end of another week

and I'm forced to ask the question: what is practical? Why are we do

focused on delivering or solving the immediate need at the expense of

the future? Why do we burn ourselves and our environments into the

ground rather than spending the time and effort it takes to do it

right the first time.

Oh, I know. I've heard all the

arguments, more times than I can count. “We have to do it this way

because of the mistakes in our past”, we say. “We have to make

it happen now, and worry about what's right sometime later, or

everything will fall apart.” Doesn't anyone, ever, notice that the

more you do that the more effort you have to spend, year after year,

until finally the total cost it takes you to support your efforts

simply isnt' worth it any more?

That said, it seems to me we rarely, if

ever, have any idea of what it means to STOP. Yes, I meant to

capitalize that word. The amount of effort I've seen pouring down

dead ends, unstable situations, and yes bad data structures is simply

phenomenal. My current employer is by no means the worst of what

I've seen, though in my darker moments I may mumble otherwise.

Stopping requires more than just

knowledge. Anyone can learn how to do it, if they just spend a few

hours reading most technical blogs or any operational methodology.

It requires an act of will, a choice to stop moving and reconsider,

even under the pressure of others to act. Action is, in and of

itself, almost a religious mantra for some organizations; it's hard

to resist the siren's call for long.

As leaders we choose to either foster

that will in our followers or crush it. We foster it by listening to

dissention, supporting the decision to stop in the face of chaos, and

bringing teams together to listen or understand. We crush it by

trying to act as the focal point for all elements of an activity,

thereby stripping our followers of their choices. We can also crush

them by refusing to stop ourselves, by driving forward over the

bodies of those who “stand in our way”.

What is the consequence of stopping?

What happens when we decide to pull back, to place a barrier along a

mad course? What happens when we choose stillness over motion and

focus over the wild flailing we so often call activity?

It's hard to say. On the rare

occasions I've gotten support for stopping it generally turns out

well. Taking a breath to reassess allowed us to remove problems from

our path, problems we would otherwise have to deal with as incidents

over and over again. It gave us the opportunity to catch our breaths

and reset our minds, allowing us to see what was in front of us

rather than just charging forward. That in turn allowed us to change

plans, reorganize work, and achieve some truly exciting results.

The question, though, is when can an

organization support the ability to stop? What elements must exist

in the organization for it to allow its employees the ability to say

“you know, this is nuts, let's chart another course?” What

elements of leadership need to exist, what levels of selflessness or

selfishness, what political strength or weakness?

I'm not sure I have any answers yet,

though it feels a lot like I have more questions. I suspect the

asking of questions will go on for some time though – it's kind of

what I'm doing right now in my life. And in my other writing as

well; it's a way of thinking I find refreshing after the doldrums we

call work.

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