Things sometimes get messier before they get better

A couple of weeks ago, I had my fourth session with *Pete whose main agenda point was his progress so far with a team re-structure.

Pete had decided to work on this project in a collaborative way, getting his team involved in its own re-shaping. They’d started off with great gusto, in a ‘blank sheet of paper/let’s throw everything up in the air and see what sticks’ kind of way. They’d brainstormed, mind-mapped, stuck sticky notes on every available surface, drunk lots of coffee and eaten a lot of doughnuts. They’d had a lot of fun as well as worked really hard.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? The only problem was that now they’d got all the ideas out on the table, they were feeling a bit overwhelmed.

‘It reminds me of when my son and I decided to clear out our garage,’ said Pete. ‘We spent all morning dragging stuff out to the driveway, sorted out what was worth keeping, what could be recycled, what needed to disposed of, what would be better stored elsewhere. Then we went into the house for lunch and when we came back out again, the sight of all that stuff lying there waiting for us to sort it out just seemed too much! Our initial enthusiasm for the project wore off instantly!’

‘So what did you do?’ I asked. ‘We realised we had two choices: shove it all back in the garage, somehow shut the door and try to forget we’d ever even started or just get on with it,’ said Pete.

‘Which did you go for?’ I asked. ‘The second option,’ he answered. ‘How come?’ I asked. ‘Well, we talked about why we’d started in the first place. The garage was so crammed full that we couldn’t tell whether what was in there was useful or rubbish – some of it we’d even forgotten we still had! Our plan had been to create a space that we could actually make use of and to remind ourselves of the useful things we’d stored away as well as get rid of the junk we’d just held on to for no very good reason.’

I suspect Pete could see my next question coming: ‘So how can you apply that situation to your issue with the team?’

‘I need to do the same thing, don’t I? We all need to remember why we started the team re-structure, celebrate the fact we’ve sorted out what’s working and worth keeping as well as what we should just ditch, and then just get on with it.’

Pete called me yesterday to update me: ‘We had a great meeting on Monday – cleared away the clutter, kept the good stuff and put together the new structure. I did have to buy some more doughnuts though!’

Today’s pebble for you to consider: do you recognise Pete’s story? Have you thrown yourself into a project, only to be a bit overwhelmed by the chaos it seems to have created? What’s your next step towards achieving your original goal?

What do you think?

*not my client’s real name: he kindly gave me permission to share the story

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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