how signs are interpreted leads to very different results

How signs are interpreted leads to very different outcome

The other day, I was exiting a parking lot through a one way exit that was marked with a big do not enter sign from the street. Just feet away to my left was the entrance, marked with a big one way sign. But that didn’t deter the person that was racing straight toward me up the exit driveway. I don’t know if they didn’t see the big signs, or saw them and ignored them because it was a faster route to where they wanted to park.

Big, obvious signs can be found all around businesses. People sometimes miss them because they aren’t paying attention. A problem that can lead to safety issues, mistakes that gum up the works, or mistakes that cause big losses for the company. On the other hand, seeing the signs and ignoring them can come about because there is a better way. The sign may no longer be relevant and it should be addressed by removing it. Or, the sign, or a rule or law, is viewed as obstructing progress and the decision about the consequences needs to be evaluated carefully.

How the signs are interpreted leads to very different outcomes.

warning systems

Warning systems

She came walking around the bend instead of running. What a surprise! She loves her runs. But she thought she had an injury. Probably nothing. Better to take it easy just in case. Then she got the news. A fractured tibia. A run back in November probably did her in, but she didn’t realize it because it didn’t hurt. She didn’t have the normal warning system most people have due to loose joints.

Warning systems are designed to pick up specific issues. Over time, conditions change and warning systems need to be re-calibrated to pick up problems anticipated in the current environment. When was the last time you checked to make sure your warning systems are up to date?

healthy trees can be deceiving

A healthy appearance can be deceiving

Crack. Crack. Boom! Like thunder, but not quite. It was a tree falling over in the woods. Tall, healthy looking, it came down in seconds, along with several branches from other trees along the way. If you’ve never seen a massive tree fall on its own accord in the woods, it is quite a sight to behold. I hiked by the tree the day before and you would never know that it was about to fall over from its outward appearance.

Like trees, businesses of all shapes and size can look healthy on the outside. But over time, the root system and its structure can be eaten away. If you aren’t looking for the signs, it looks like an otherwise healthy structure collapsed without warning.

It’s a good reminder for leaders not just to look at the outward facing portion of a company, but to also look at its foundation and structure to ensure it is healthy too.

sometime you need to know when to break the rules

Sometimes breaking the rules is necessary

The big storm that made its way across the country left an ice rink where the street used to be. And when it was safe enough to drive, I found cars abandoned along the side of the road. The road dips down and then up, with a stop sign at the top of the hill. And if you’ve lived in an area with snow or ice and a stop sign at the top of the hill, you know that you can’t stop at the stop sign without sliding back down the hill. You watch for other cars and keep going.

Sometimes breaking the rules are necessary to get where you are going. The trick is knowing when the conditions warrant doing so.

do you know when the window will close?

What is blinding you?

There are days at this time of year when the sun peaks out and is stunning. But, because the angle of the sun is lower, it has a tendency to be blinding at times. Which makes it hard to look ahead.

There are times in business when the same thing happens. Something ahead is blinding us. When that happens, how are you making sure you get a clear view to make good decisions and keep on the intended path?

are you building to last?

Are you building to last?

One day, a few weeks ago, it was windy. Really windy. It happens periodically. Sometimes a few trees fall over or limbs fall. And life goes on. This time, a brand new fence was blown over. In its entirety. The whole thing was just lying on the ground, intact from end to end. The problem was clear. The fence posts were small metal poles that had been driven less than a foot into the ground, anchored by a 9 inch diameter concrete footing. The very small anchor wasn’t enough to stand up to 50 mph gusts of wind pushing on the fence, even though every other fence around it was still standing.

Understanding the conditions necessary to last for the long term are important. Are you building to last?

are you creating hazards?

Are you unintentionally creating hazards?

Have you ever seen situations and wondered what the person was thinking who created it? A few days ago was one of those times. A crew was working in the neighborhood and left their trucks overnight.

The truck and its trailer were wrapped around a corner. They were so large, you couldn’t see around them, forcing drivers to turn into oncoming traffic hoping no-one was there. A particular hazard because oncoming traffic was coming around a bend and would not have time to react to a car on the wrong side of the road.

People do things all the time at work, focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes they are not aware of the hazards they are creating. How are you making sure you don’t have any unintended hazards in your business?

are you watching out for risks ahead?

Are you charging ahead or hesitating?

There’s a blind corner at one particular spot on the daily walk. And when I say corner, it is a really long, rounded corner with a waist high cinder block wall with a 6 foot fence on top that seems to take forever to traverse.

Although we take the walk almost every day, as soon as we get to that corner, my dog starts pulling really hard and starts going even faster. What might we encounter that we can’t see? She is charging hard to find out!

In business, there are lots of blind corners too. We’ve been on the road before, but today there might be something new on the way. Do you charge ahead fast to find out? Do you proceed cautiously? Do you hesitate? Each approach has its upsides and drawbacks. If you aren’t prepared for them. Which do you choose?

how do you assess risk?

How are people self assessing risk in your business?

Every morning I see rabbits all over the place. Some are on their own, while others are in groups. On one particular morning, there was a group of four nibbling on the grass. As I approached, three ran up the hill and into a bush. The fourth ran down the hill, paused and watched me as I walked by.

Everyone has their own perception and tolerance for risk. But in business, that can be problematic if individual tolerance for risk is too permissive or too restrictive. How are you making sure you get the balance you want in your business?

unintended consequences

Are unintended consequences derailing your good ideas?

Malcolm Gladwell recently shared things he has been thinking about and testing. One in particular caught my attention. Driverless cars. His theory is that people fear walking out in front of cars because they won’t be seen and will be hit. But in the future, driverless cars will be programmed to stop when people walk in front of them. As a result, what has been touted as a more efficient way to commute will come to a grinding halt because people will no longer follow the rules and will walk across roads and highways at will.

Unintended consequences happen all the time from great and well-meaning ideas. What unintended consequences are coming from your ideas?