Where is Your Leverage?

A couple of weeks ago, when I spoke at Agile Cambridge, I stayed at Churchill College, in Cambridge, UK. 

I have not stayed in a dorm room since I was an undergraduate, quite a while ago. These rooms are part of the B&B the college maintains for conferences, etc. They are nicer than the dorm rooms I remember. 

In my four years of living at school, one thing stands out for me: how warm the rooms were. It seemed as if we could open windows—a little—but the rooms stayed hot all winter. When they turned off the heat for the summer, the rooms were almost cool enough, but the windows were too small.

Schools limit the window openings for many reasons, primarily student safety. They don’t want students falling out of the window, and they don’t want strange people entering through the window. That means the dorm rooms are hot.

This room has a way to open the windows further than I remember. Churchill College is a relatively young school, opening in 1960. However, the buildings do not have that 1960’s (IUS) concrete architecture feel. They have wooden window frames, hardwood floors, and a warm feel to the rooms. 

Another thing they have is leverage for opening the windows. During my visit, we had sunny days—something I love. And, with the solar properties of windows, the room got quite warm. Until I learned how to open the window. 

Window.extension windowcrank

It’s one thing to try to lean out to the window and open it. It’s another to turn the crank on the wall. 

Leaning over to open the window can be difficult, especially for short people like me. You need to be the right height and have long enough arms. 

Many more people can turn a crank. The crank provides the leverage you might need.

Where in your work or your life are you leaning, trying to open the door or window? What if you could turn a crank? What would happen then?

Here are some ideas for crank-turners, places to apply leverage:

  • systems for managing your work, such as a kanban or other board
  • automation, certainly for tests and for other tasks you do often
  • building relationships before you need them

I bet the first two are no-brainers for you. But that last one, building relationships? I wonder if you considered that for leverage.

When you build relationships across your organization or across your profession, you can create more opportunities for collaboration, for influence, for learning. 

That, adaptable leaders, is the question of the week: Where is your leverage? What windows have you opened today?

2 thoughts on “Where is Your Leverage?

  1. Laurent Bossavit

    Complete agreement on “building relationships before you need them”. I would add: maintain relationships after you no longer need them.

    I try to follow up with past clients and business acquaintances every so often, doing my best not to let a busy work schedule turn me into someone who’s only “building relationships” when he has a utilitarian interest in the people in question.

    Some people, I guess, think of building relationships, networking and the like as useful instruments in purpose of an ultimate goal which is their work.

    Whenever I can, I remind myself that my work is a sometimes frustrating, often interesting, occasionally fun activity, which is instrumental in pursuit of an ultimate goal of getting to know and appreciate other people.

    1. johanna Post author

      Laurent, nice catch! I agree, maintaining relationships is difficult and rewarding. I find that when I “check in” by email with people, I often discover something unusual that I can see how to apply later. My clients, friends, and casual acquaintances have such interesting lives and work.

      I love your quote, “ultimate goal of getting to know and appreciate other people.” Very nice.

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