life cycles

Life Cycles

Over the last few weeks, the Pacific Northwest trillium has been in bloom. The flower starts out white, then turns light pink and eventually a dark pink before it reaches the end of its life cycle.  The color is the indicator of which stage it is in.

Products and services have life cycles too. And it takes a little more work to tell if it is early stage, mature or in decline. But a quick survey of the market will give a directional indication. That’s the step that gets overlooked. Knowing where you are in the life cycle to inform what to do next.

what is impeding your growth

What’s impeding your growth?

There’s an ornamental bush in a planter box in front of my house. I’ve wanted it to grow to a certain height, but it just hasn’t grown. And that has stumped me. Then a few weeks ago, I realized, my landscaping crew has been trimming the bush. They thought they were helping, but really they were impeding the growth I was looking for.

In business, well intentioned people get in the way of growth all the time. They think their job is to constrain it from happening.  That’s when it is important for leaders to make sure people understand growth goals and align the organization to support rather than impede it.

showing up

Showing Up

There’s a teenage boy who shows up at the park every day that it isn’t raining to practice basketball. Sometimes he is by himself, other times he is accompanied by other teenage boys. Dribbling, shooting, trying new things. He shows up and practices. That’s how skill and passion are built. By showing up and doing the work that is necessary to get good at the game.

The power of an image

The Power of an Image

The other day, I was flipping through The Wall Street Journal. I read many periodicals online, but I like the WSJ in print because of the design and layout.  So when I saw the full page image and message from the editor about the wrongfully detained journalist Evan Gershkovich, I paused. The power of the full page message did what it was designed to do—stop me in my tracks. It made me think about the gravity of the situation. Images and messages can be powerful to convey a point if executed well. It’s worth taking time to notice when they do.

when the extraordinary becomes ordinary

When the Extraordinary becomes Ordinary

I was in Washington DC last week and was able to see the cherry blossoms at their peak. Stunning! All of the hotels in the area were booked with people coming to see the blossoms. And yet, for the people living there, many have seen the sight for so many years, it is no longer a big deal. The extraordinary that people travel to see has become ordinary.

It’s part of human nature that people adapt to their surroundings. And as leaders, when we are in the middle of something special, it is our responsibility to remind people that what is going on is extraordinary and not to lose sight of it. Otherwise, over time, the thing that attracts people will get lost and become ordinary.

Coming soon

“Coming Soon”

The neighborhood park has been under construction for almost a year. There was a pause in the fall and winter awaiting material deliveries. Then a couple of weeks ago, fencing went up around what will be the playground area and construction resumed. It was like a big “coming soon” sign was on display. People came by to find out what was going on and observe the installation.

There’s nothing like a “coming soon” display when people are excited by what is coming. Think about announcements you’ve heard lately that got you excited for a movie, a tv show, or a park. Are you creating that same sort of excitement in your business?

healthy trees can be deceiving

History, change, bugs and features

A few months back, a woman I see regularly on the trail shared the history of the trails. Years ago, it was just a muddy series of trails for most of the year that was known by the horse community. Just one of five parks in the county where they would go to ride, it was their little secret. And then several groups and the county came together to improve the trails.

The little known place where people could ride their horses started to become a magnet for hikers, bikers and runners, making it harder for people riding their horses. What was a feature for so many new people, became a bug for the long time partakers.

That’s the thing with change. Often, there’s a lot of history behind how people feel about the change. And making things better for some, can make it worse for others. Knowing the history can help reduce or eliminate the impact of change.

hurry up and wait

Hurry up and wait

It was a quick trip, so Uber made the most sense getting to and from the airport. The first ride had little traffic. Even so, the driver always followed the GPS. He found that every time he diverted, his alternate took longer than the GPS projected route. In contrast, the drive back included a lot of rush hour traffic. So, the driver diverted from GPS and drove through adjacent streets, hitting almost every light as red. There was movement for a few moments, followed by long waits at red lights. A quick look at the freeway showed that it was moving continuously, but slowly. We got to the airport 15 minutes later than the GPS originally projected.

It’s a common phenomenon. The desire to feel movement. The thing is, when movement is also accompanied by long halts, slow movement is better because it is continuous. It’s worth noting as a leader that hurry up and wait is better when the wait time can be significantly reduced then eliminated. If not, it just becomes something that slows the organization down, mistaking brief movement for faster progress.

muddy spots create more muddy spots

Muddy spots create more muddy spots

It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest in the winter. Which means, the water needs somewhere to go. One of the trails has been worn down through the weight of horses, people and bikes such that there is no place for the water to run off. It just pools, creating one of the muddiest spots in the series of trails. So, people veer off the path to avoid the mud, creating a bigger muddy area.

These situations arise at work too. People see a mess and try to get around it. What they don’t realize is, by avoiding the mess, they create another mess because that space wasn’t meant to be used in that manner. It’s worth thinking about design in business to make sure messy spots are removed rather than being left to create other problems.

delivering on expectations

Delivering on expectations

Shipment delayed-weather. That was the message about why my package was delayed. The only thing was, I could see it was at the local warehouse and there wasn’t an issue with weather in the area. So, there is sat for two days until it was delivered on the day the major snowstorm came through town, shutting the area down.

Companies set expectations about their services. We’ve come to expect deliveries to be seamless (except for the supply chain hiccups during the pandemic). When it doesn’t happen the way we expect, people take notice and they change quickly if problems persist. That’s the thing about expectations. People want the what they signed up for, whether it was written down or just a given.