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Unsustainable pace

I had a chat yesterday with my best friend. As too many times before, she tells me about her husband working almost around the clock, weekends, holidays. And she always says “This is such a tough project. It will all change when this project is over.” She has been saying that for four years now. We’ve all been in episodes when we have to work very hard, spending evenings and even nights. But when this becomes the normal situation, you’re on the wrong track. You can perhaps skip that TV show you love but your spouse, your children and your friends will continue their lives without you if you’re not there. Is it worth it? And is it really effective?

A basic principle of the 7 habits program is the old story of the goose and the golden egg. In the story, a poor peasant have a goose which he loves a lot and one morning, the goose lays a golden egg. Bewildered with joy, the peasant can buy food for his starving family. But the next morning, there is yet another golden egg. And again, he’s filled with joy and can provide for his loved ones. As the days passes, the goose continue laying the golden eggs, one each morning, and the once poor man is transformed into a rich man. He no longer has to fight for survival and instead he craves the riches of the golden eggs. His greed makes him impatient and one day he cuts the goose open to get all the eggs at once. But there are no golden eggs in the goose. Instead he has killed the goose he loves and destroyed the resource which brought him continuous wealth.

In 7 habits, the goose is the production capacity and the golden egg the produce and the basic principle is that you need a sustainable pace and focus both on the eggs and the goose. If you’re fixated on the eggs, you will risk the health of the goose, and thereby kill it and loose all your future winnings. If you don’t work with the eggs, the production capacity will be useless, since it does not bring wealth.

For me, this story struck a core. Having worked with agile values for many years now, I of course know and have discussed the importance of the sustainable pace. And yet, I’ve worked too many times in environments where no value has been given to the production capacity of the resources. I’ve had managers who didn’t care if someone worked themselves to death. Literary. But what have they won in the long run? I’ve also worked in organizations where no one has cared about the produce, where managers haven’t bothered about people producing something of value. Who’ve turned a blind eye to employees wasting time and resources. Both are killers, in their own ways, and if you find yourself in an organization which does not addresses these issues, you are probably better off somewhere else. In some cases, you can perhaps be a part of the transition of the organization, but if your managers are not on the wagon or refuse to change, there is probably no use. You cannot make the change yourself.

Time is too precious to waste and time is wasted on an organization who does not realize that building a business is a long race and not a sprint.

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Categories: Leadership
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