Tuesday, August 9, 2011

“Do you know how fast you are going?”

Driving down highway 1 in California, the only thing that can distract from the world-class vistas is the threat of a CHiP ready to say hello by asking the dreaded question “do you know how fast you were going?”

That is why I was surprised when a lonely radar speed sign showed me that I was driving 72 in a 55 zone. There it was, flashing in bright orange “72!” Just below the legal speed limit, it was there in real-time, objective, straight by the numbers -- a surprising, but healthy warning to take stock and evaluate the current pace of my travels.

In the corridors of work we could benefit from this kind of in-your-face, objective assessment. Indeed, one of the leading explanations of speeding violations is that the driver “wasn’t paying attention” and “didn’t notice their speed.” How often does this type of dangerous distraction happen to us in the break-neck pace of the modern workplace?

To decrease distraction and avoid the unwanted outcome of an accident or citation, we can create our own version of radar speed signs at work. A major value of these is that they can provide space for self-correction and alignment of priorities and actions without punitive consequences. If we follow this metaphor, it becomes a straightforward process of deliberately placing these “sign posts” in front of us so that we can catch a glimpse of how we’re doing in the precise moments when and places where we may lose sight of the quality of our progress.

Whether it is a request of a colleague/mentor, a post-it note on your desk, an automatic reminder in your email system, I am referring to the kind of questions that we can ask that will provide this objective feedback:

- How fast am I going right now?

- Considering the conditions, is this the ideal speed?

- Am I tuned into the landscape, or is it just a blur?

- Do I know where I’m headed (what I’m seeking to accomplish)?

- Am I too far back, or too far out in front of the people I need to be working with?

The vendor, Radarsign, claims that their machines offer an effective and affordable traffic-calming solution for reducing speeding drivers on city streets and highways, in neighborhoods, school zones, and more. Let’s look at these kind of anchor-questions as our own traffic-calming solution to finding the right rhythm and pace of work.

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