How Flexibility Can Break You

How Flexibility Can Break You
November 5, 2012 Keri

Hi, this is Keri again. You may remember me from this post. If you don’t, that’s okay. I work here, just usually behind the scenes.

Today I want to discuss flexibility. I didn’t run this by Derek, but I know from our working relationship that this will be just fine. I know this because Derek is easy and pleasant to work with. He trusts me to make decisions because he has passionately imparted a sizable amount of wisdom to me.  Derek doesn’t pay me to write these glowing reviews or blow smoke up his golf shorts, so you can trust me on this.

One of my favorite things about Derek is how flexible and understanding he can be. I believe that as a team, that is our greatest strength: being able to adapt to a vast array of chaotic circumstances. We carry this with us as we deal with clients and co-workers alike, always remaining calm and ready to rebound if “life gets in the way” or if deadlines pass by unfulfilled.

We have become so flexible, in fact, that we have collapsed. Have you ever tried to suck through a straw that’s bent at a 90 degree angle? That’s us right now; still getting the job done, but not as effectively as we could be.

It started innocently enough – I needed a day off here and there for a knitting convention or a Pop-Tart eating contest or whatever. Derek had no problems letting me off the leash for a while. Then Derek took some time to work on his stamp collection and alphabetize all of his Indigo Girls albums.

(All of that is a lie, actually. Derek’s wife gave birth to their second child and I got wrapped up in an extensive freelance contract elsewhere. Derek travels a ridiculous amount these days and I have not been pushing him or myself like I should have been.)

The point is, Derek and I knew what the other was up to, and we had no qualms about missing deadlines or pushing things to next week. We kept in constant contact, fueled by our outside-of-the-office friendship, and because we were so understanding of each other’s life circumstances, we have a created a situation for ourselves in which “next week” was probably three weeks ago.

What we have now is a too-flexible schedule where there is no accountability.  I missed something? Derek understood and it was okay. Derek missed something? I understood and it was okay. Now we’re to the point where we understand why we’re behind but it’s not okay anymore. We’ve each been moving and shaking lately, which is good. Things are growing and happening quickly. But we’re missing the little things, the simple things that we used to knock out Monday morning before breakfast.

Luckily, it’s an easy fix. We’re going to reorganize and regroup and restructure, if necessary. We have the technology.

This happens all over the place, not just in the business world. If you find yourself behind on deadlines or commitments, take the time to work out how you can get back on schedule, and then do it. Do it right now. Don’t push it to next week and expect to play catch up then. Why? Because you probably won’t. Chances are, if you are consistently missing a deadline, you aren’t failing the deadline, the deadline is failing you.

And it’s okay to be flexible around your team’s needs, but don’t let that flexibility break you. If you have a system in place that used to work but doesn’t function as it should anymore, it is easier to devise a new system that will meet your current needs instead of trying to fit your square schedule into a round routine.

And in cased you missed Derek this week, here’s my best impression of him: if you are just being lazy, stop that. If you need to reevaluate how you delegate resources or use time wisely, do not be afraid to change. Stupid is worse than lazy.

(I didn’t run that impression by Derek, but I know from our working relationship that this will be just fine.)

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