We all have a moment of entanglement. We are beavering away at our work, pouring all our efforts into a task that we believe of the greatest importance. We are stressed and feel overwhelmed by what we have to do. Customers, colleagues and bosses are placing their demands and we are racing to keep up with our work.
We are entangled in the doing of our work. So deeply entangled in work’s own logic that we have lost an important thing – perspective. We lose the degrees of freedom of action that come from perspective.
Then one way or other the hard question comes. The question could be asked by a boss, a customer, a friend, a colleague or family. The question that is some variant of perspective. A question that can take many forms:
‘Why are you doing that? Why is that the best way? Why is that the best use of your talents now? How will that achieve your goals? How does that fulfil your purpose? How is that consistent with your values?”
With just that question it is clear to us that this work is not worth our time, is misguided or even counterproductive. The question has cut through the tangles and freed us to see a better way to work. The question restores our freedom of action.
Entanglement comes in many forms. We are entangled by culture and the way things are done around here. We are entangled by unspoken expectations. We are entangled by our history and the assumptions we bring to our work. We are entangled by senses of duty and obligation to our colleagues, our customers, our family, our friends and ourselves. In all these tangling webs of ties, we can easily lose sense of which way is up, what is right and what is best.
Don’t wait for a challenge, a failure, a post mortem or a Royal Commission to help you get perspective on your work and your plan of attack. Challenge yourself. Ask the hard questions every day. Push back on work that fails the test. You will be far more productive and more satisfied with your work.