“The job is to ask questions, it always was, and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.”
– Arthur Miller
A project you’ve been working on has just turned into a steaming pile of garbage. You don’t even know what the hell just happened.
You got the right were people involved, the energy was great, things were rolling along nicely. And then there was fuck all to show for it.
Time, money and energy just vanished into thin air.
People are avoiding contact and you’re left there going over it again and again in your mind.
Why didn’t it work? What could I have done differently? Where did it all break down?
All great questions.
Atleast until you get to the point where you realize that you’ve just spent the better part of a week trying to figure it out.
When it comes to performing an autopsy (metaphorically) of events, I’m the first in line.
In fact, I love it!
There are some people who like to pick apart cars, computers or clocks just to see what makes them, here comes the pun, “tick”.
I love picking apart events and people. However, this requires cooperation.
When projects fail and people aren’t willing to be open and honest about where they feel things went awry, there’s often very little to be gained.
Valuable insights are lost and you can’t really force people to open up if they don’t want to.
I mean, you could try torture but that’s generally frowned upon.
Plus, the information is rarely, if ever, reliable. People just want to get it over and done with as soon as possible.
This kind of attitude usually speaks volumes about the organization. It hasn’t built up a culture where people feel secure. As a result they clam up and watch their own backs.
Early on I used to be insistant that there has to be an answer. How could there not be?
That’d mean it was all for naught. And we can’t have that.
After beating my head against the wall enough times, also doing a lot of reading, I finally accepted the fact that there are just some things that I can’t figure out if the people involved aren’t willing to be open.
Who can blame them? It’s hard and there’s a risk that comes with the willingness to be held accountable for our part in it.
We’re ready to bask in the glory when things go well. But when the shit hits the air conditioner?
We’re outta there!
Sometimes there just aren’t any satisfying answers to be found.
You could listen to the bullshit story that’s playing in your head and piecing together a plausible narrative of why it went down that way.
However, if you’re being completely honest with yourself you know that it’s only to get some sort of closure.
Let go of that need and focus on grieving your loss. It’s OK not to have all the answers.
While it might be the end of that chapter, it’s the start of something else.
I’d like to close with this.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”