This weekend I cleared out my kitchen cupboards – a proper job – everything out, shelves cleaned, stuff sorted and then put back.
And this simple job showed just how distorted ‘thinking’ can be. In this simple task I learnt:
- It is easy to over-estimate or under-estimate time. I thought this was going to be an all-day job so I kept postponing it as it was difficult to find the time. In fact, it took two hours.
- How much old junk had been sitting there unused for years. I filled a large bag with nothing but discoloured plastic containers. And I had put up with these things irritating me and getting in my way for all that time.
- When it was finished I was expecting to feel thrilled about a job well done. But actually I felt slightly unsettled – it did not seem to be my kitchen anymore, it did not look the same.
And this got me thinking. Here was change that I wanted and was going to create a more efficient, hygienic and pleasant kitchen to work in yet I had always found something more urgent or important to complete. And it seems that I was very practised at putting up with daily irritations over items falling out of overfilled cupboards but not very practised at correctly estimating how long the task would take to complete. And then there is the fact that even desired change can feel wrong or weird until we become used to it.
Where in our businesses do we have ‘kitchen cupboards’? Where are we or our team putting up with minor daily irritations rather than actually doing something to solve it? And where we incorrectly estimating time – make the task too big to tackle? How can we as managers help our teams overcome these distortions?
- The first is to recognise the distortion within ourselves. This takes real honesty and if you have access to a coach, mentor or supportive colleague this will really help you check any assumptions you may be carrying.
- The second is to walk into your department and observe your team with new eyes – as though you were a first time visitor. What would a visitor see that you have become blind too? What would they question, think odd, frown over?
- The third is to discuss the question of comfort zones and falling into accepted ways of working with your team. Together discuss how you want the working environment to be and what standards of delivery you want, as a team, to maintain. Do you want to be seen as a comfy and slightly untidy old pair of slippers or as a vibrant, energetic, get-things-done group of people? (If you want to read more about the excuses we can make to remain in the comfort zone check out this resource.)
- Expect yourself and your team to feel slightly unsettled when even desired changes are made. It is OK. It only took me about a week to adjust to my new kitchen but it was important to acknowledge that it was adjustment rather than to fall back into untidy kitchen habits to have it feel comfortable again.
Tidying up and clearing things out creates room for the new. In my kitchen I am finding it much easier to try out some new daring recipes now everything is clear. What needs to be cleared out of your working environment and practices to make the new that much easier?