Post-Summer Rush: Acceleration and Impatience

As the last traces of summer begin to fade, the reality of returning to work seemed to be like pushing an immovable object last week.

Trying to shake off that holiday vibe, especially when the weather was so nice, was really hard. I mean, who doesn’t want to maintain a bit more of that holiday vibe just a bit longer?

Yet, we know, deep down, that the world must go on, and good things at some point come to an end.. it just felt like we needed to go from 0 to 100mph overnight.

It is of course completely normal to feel the pressure to get back up to speed after a break, but what also struck me this time around was the profound impact had on my perceptions… As if my brain shifted into warp speed, intensifying and accelerating every interaction, decision, and concern. It all collided, compounding my stress, and impatience at things ‘just not moving quick enough’!

A couple of observations I noted…

1. The Need for Immediate Responses. Sending emails, getting things done, yet within minutes, I was checking my inbox… ‘why haven’t they replied yet’… yes, time is important, but it can be too quick… people do need to read it first!

2. A Bias to Quick Decisions. In my sped-up state of mind, any delay in decision-making I was interpreting as procrastination… ‘just make a decision and move on!’ But, there can be too hasty. Sometimes decisions require some consideration, analysis and data… rushing can lead to costly mistakes.

3. A Race Against the Clock. ‘It should all be done by the end of the week?’, I found myself thinking, before factoring in other people’s diaries, response times, sleeping and eating. A little more reality setting needed here.

4. Click through Rates. With an urgency on seeing immediate results… “Do we need to repost that article again?”… it was tempting, but how much is too much and how much is just others are busy too? Patience is key, some things take time.

Fortunately, things seem to have settled down a little and returned to more like normality this week… the routine is settling in.

But, boy taking a break can be stressful… it seems I need a week below to clear the decks of work and then the week after just to get back up to speed!… Sometimes do you wonder if it is even worth going on holiday at all?

Nah, I thought not, it is definitely worth it… but be a little more patient with those who have just returned… for a week at least. 🙂

Let me know in the comments below if you have experienced something similar… and remember only 14 weeks to go until Christmas!

Have a good week everyone.

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It’s not a great climate for… sure

Would you believe it… as soon as the school summer holidays are almost over, the chance of a break starts to recede and the weather here turns glorious. It does seem like there has been a break in the weather, although with flooding in Spain, and parts of the USA, it is not all sunshine for sure.

Unfortunately, it is becoming undeniable, from first-hand experience, that there is something up with the climate. As we sit there in our air-conditioned soon-to-be heated offices, accessing data centres on the other side of the world, the question needs to be… what exactly do we do about it.

There are obviously plenty of grand gestures we can make… let’s stop all flying, no driving to the office, turn off the heating, go vegetarian, install solar panels, heat pumps, shop local, or even cancelling streaming services and not using Google or AI.

These are, of course, all good ideas. Maybe you have done some of these or maybe not. However, what all of these do have in common is consequences. Consequences for you, your lifestyle or your firm. 

And, if you are in competition with others, especially if they are without these constraints, the fear is you will be put at a significant disadvantage.

Whilst going out of business, for good reasons, may feel righteous, it may also in fact make things worse.  Think of the impact if all your work was picked up by a competitor who just ignored these impacts…. life would go on and be just as polluting as ever… yet continuing to do nothing also seems unsustainable. Clearly we need to be more efficient, cost effective and significantly reduce our environmental impact.

So what do we do?  Mulling on it over this weekend, I wondered if there was an MI angle. 

In reality, it is really quite hard to measure your actual total environmental impact and the consequences of the different choices we make.  

What is the total environmental cost of that amazon delivery vs driving to the store to buy it?  What is the total impact of buying a new electric car, including its manufacture, vs keeping your old gas guzzler on the road (hint changing to EV is environmentally better)… and where do you invest first and what has the shortest payback or most impact per $ spent.

If you are in the environmental accounting field maybe this is easy, for most of us on the outside these are all outstanding questions. Whilst you can take courses in environmental economics and accounting, for the layman this all quickly gets complicated.

Yet just like in finance and operations by having standard and consistent measures it could make a huge difference. It would allow better decision making, the setting of carbon reduction goals and indeed allowing for process reengineering through techniques such as the patero effect or marginal gains (which although seemingly slightly contradictory, both of which I am a fan).

In the end, as the saying goes, you get what you measure and in this case it seems we are just not measuring enough…

So maybe we need to account for CO2 like money and publish it on our invoices too. 

It would certainly allow us to make better choices.. and rollup the total impact for consumers…

It is something I have been looking at and watching the waves roll in on the latest typhoons, hurricanes and flooding, it is likely something we will all have to think about in the near future too… #one to watch #beyondESG

Have a good week everyone.

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Machine vs human: Who needs that holiday anyway…

August can be a quiet month. Lots of us are on holiday, many for two weeks, and all at different times. It can feel like there is no-one in the office sometimes.

And, despite our best efforts to move things forward, especially at speed, progress is like walking through mud… yet another delay while we wait for someone to return from holiday and get up to speed again…

Take a break

Of course, we all need to take a break. There is after-all only a week or so left and all will be back to usual.

However, this is also a great time to work on other things too – soft skills, spending time with colleagues, and getting to know them a little better. We need to make the most of this while we can. It is much easier now when things are a little more relaxed and will help, being a better team, once everything ramps up again in September proper.

This is also true for clients, customers and prospects… that is if they are in the office, not running around trying to keep the lights on with everyone else out… although this is a slightly different issue, also something you can also support too, to great relief no doubt!

So this can be a great time to reach out, make contact and build relationships. It all helps to be informed, ready, and able to better support in the future.

So with this in mind I spent the last week or so reaching out to folks and making contact, old and new. It has been a busy time.

However in doing this, one of the things I noticed was around my psychology, especially expectations on speed of response and it got me thinking about how this has changed in our automated, digital world.

I Robot

These days we all like to think we live in a fast-paced world… everything happens at speed and all interactions need to be as instantaneous as possible… and we enjoy it.

Think about Just In Time manufacturing and 24-hour Prime delivery and how popular they are. It is in our psyche.

And this is happening back in the office too… In our relationship with communication, co-workers and processes… speed is king and is what we expect.

I seemed to first notice this with the blinking light on the Blackberry, a new email, and something that needs to be addressed or actioned… and an almost Pavlovian response. But, this behaviour has now also spread to all emails, Teams, Slack, WhatsApp and SnapChat…. just ask any teenager, an instant response is a good response, or at least expected.

So have we been trained and come to expect instant response, by our own machines (and processes)… and on the flip side, do we also now feel the pressure to give instant responses too…?

Not a machine?

Yet, sometimes it is good to reflect that we are not really machines. Not ones engineered to perform narrow processes, made out of metal and plastic, at least.

We like to think of ourselves being equivalent, equal or better to our creations, but at a human scale, things can also take time and in fact we are just different.

I was acutely reminded of this, this week, sending all my emails, calls, invites, LinkedIn posts and interactions. It was easy after all to send lots out (like a machine)… yet the response took time. Some responded quickly, but many took time and the response built over a few days. (Or to explain it in human terms… other people are busy too 🙂 ). Fundamentally this was a human interaction and process…

It was all easy for my brain to run ahead, get frustrated and especially compared to my expectations of response times…

Don’t get frustrated

Undoubtedly our relationships with engineering, computers, and processes have been a marvel of the modern world. It has quite literally transformed our way of living and created the world we live in today. I cannot complain really.

However, by its nature, this also requires very exact, timebound, and transactional thinking. Ambiguity and emotion are easily removed from the process.

In some ways this is the machine’s strength, it keeps things running on time, and if it runs well you simply turn up the speed to increase the output.

However, this is not how we, as humans, work. Trying to keep up can feel like we are on that proverbial hamster wheel – it is trying to live on machine time.

Human brains are complex, organic, massively parallel but relatively slow chemical structures. We have become good at compensating for our lack of raw processing speed by using ingenuity to find shortcuts and underlying mechanisms to understand the world. Just look at our history of scientific theories, maths, behavioural models and even how we create dinner, it is just something we do.

We are good at dealing with ambiguity, and complexity, being creative, considering all the pros, cons, second or even third-order impacts – decisions… Just sometimes this process takes a little longer.

So we need to consider giving ourselves a break, until the end of the summer at least.

Sometimes the quick response is not always the best response and it is worth being patient, letting ideas and relationships mature… naturally… in human time.

Have a good week everyone.

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