I just picked up my brand new glasses. I’ve had the old glasses for several years and it was time for new glasses. I missed the early clues that it was time. Let me rewind the circumstances a bit.
I’m nearsighted. Since I am of a certain age, I also have presbyopia, a typical condition where people have more trouble focusing on close objects. That means I have been wearing bifocals for about 15 years. (I wear the progressive kind of glasses, where there is a sweet spot for near, middle, and far distances. I move my head to see through the correct part of my glasses. We almost all have presbyopia as we age. If you are young, just wait. If you are over 40, you’ll be here soon enough.)
About a year ago, I changed the font on my computer. The regular font was too small for me to see. I was leaning into my computer to see, not sitting properly at all.
About six months ago, I started to take off my glasses to see my phone. It didn’t matter where I put the phone—near, not-so-near, far—I could not see the screen with my glasses on.
About a month later, I started to take my glasses off to read with my iPad, Kindle, or a print book.
A few weeks ago, I started walking around the house with my glasses off. I was more comfortable with them off than I was with them on. Since I am quite near-sighted, this surprised me. What was I doing, walking around the house with no glasses??
Note the time elapsing here. It took me at least three months to realize I needed new glasses. I might call this “degrading gracefully.” You might call this “missing clues.” You would be correct!
The clue-missing happens to all of us at some point. That’s because we are wonderfully human beings.
I bet I’m not the only one to miss clues. I bet you do, too. The question is where? What prevents you from seeing clues that something is changing?
In our projects, if we don’t measure on a trend line, we miss clues. Single data points are interesting, but not sufficient for understanding what’s going on. Notice that I had single-point data points all along.
Trend line measurement means you need to measure the same thing over time to see if the line goes up or down. You need to know what to measure. It can be a challenge.
I did not measure my eyesight in quantitative ways. I did “measure” it in qualitative ways. When my eyesight got bad enough, I finally said, “Oh, time for new glasses!”
When we “degrade gracefully,” we miss the idea that something could be wrong in our system. It doesn’t matter if the system is us as humans, in our project, in our organizations. Whatever it is, when we accept graceful degradation, we miss clues.
Our mental models can prevent us from seeing clues. The more we know something “can’t be true” the longer we are likely to miss clues.
I’m happy now. I have my new glasses and I can see everything: my computer, my devices, my books. I am wearing my glasses again all the time, which I am sure is much safer than me wandering around the house without them.
Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question this week: Are you missing clues or degrading gracefully?
- Who’s Working?
- How Are You Better or Worse?