Freeing Constraints

Laura Warecki, Hot Air Balloon Night Sky

What constraints exist on your project? Your role, available resources, time? Most days, we put ownership of these on someone else and rightly so. Rarely are we handed the perfect role, unlimited money, and all the time in the world-- at least not for any priority project that someone actually expects to get done.

So, as is typically the case, we get a call and take on a new project with limited resources, a short turn-around time, and less than ideal conditions. If your meetings are anything like mine, we end up discussing how to cope with the limiting conditions more than the actual solution. 

Meanwhile, there is an even more powerful set of internal constraints kicking around just beneath the surface. These are our personal sense of our know how, ability to balance/time management, and conviction.  We often lament the external when its really the internal constraints holding us back. 

Why? The externals are the stuff of meetings. We have the data and reports to prove it. At the core, we're more comfortable and familiar (and certainly the professional norm) dealing with these outward issues in our work. 

There is an inherent problem with this patter. The external constraints are always real but are almost never the real reason a project is slow to start, goes off track, doesn't reach full potential, or flat out fails. 

Instead, our internal dialog is much more powerful but not always observed and hardly ever documented. We're understandably much less comfortable saying to our teams, "I don't know how to solve this".  Or, "I'm worried that if I really 'lean in'  and take on a heavier life that my delicate work/life balance will fall apart." Or, "I don't really care that much about this problem."

Overcoming these internal obstacles starts with noticing what is going on, then getting honest with yourself about the real resources needed to push through. I don't foresee (or advocate for) a day when people go around and sharing their fears and feelings during the kick-off meeting BUT tuning-in ultimately helps us each bring our best selves.