Early yesterday morning, I walked with Lucy (the dog) up to the top of Stagbury Hill in The New Forest. Not a huge feat as Stagbury, despite having a trig point at the top, is not very high! High enough, though, to be able to see the surrounding countryside in all its winter glory. Leafless Oak and Ash trees in one direction, green deciduous Pines in another. Red flowered heather tangled with the dead leaves of last summer’s bracken. New Forest ponies foraging optimistically for food amongst the grass and gorse. Rather a barren landscape and a typical winter scene in this part of the world.
If we came back again in the middle of summer, all would look completely different. What appears brown and barren now will look green and fertile. Butterflies and other insects will join the bees in drawing nectar from the many scented flowers on bushes and plants. Snakes will sunbathe on rocks and birds and frogs will compete to catch the insects. New Forest Pony foals will gambol next to their long-suffering mothers and the resident deer, foxes and badgers will all be defending their offspring against nature’s predators.
Nature’s annual processes will play out here as they have for the past thousand years and will continue to do so, in all probability, for thousands of years to come. But the processes are not ‘set in stone’. They frequently adapt, to meet prevailing conditions. A great example of this happened in the spring of 2006. April of that year was particularly cold with several days of frost. The buds and blossom that would normally appear during April remained dormant, to protect the delicate leaves and flowers against the frost. The plants adapted their usual ‘budding’ process to counter the abnormally cold weather. The result? Blossom appeared on trees and bushes four weeks later than normal. But when they came, the flowers were spectacular! The best display of spring blossom in living memory. This was almost certainly due to more of the plants’ energies going in to forming the blossom, over a longer period, than would normally be the case.
What is the significance of this in business you may be asking?
We always manage projects to deadlines. Usually, these are fixed dates which must be met. Quite often, though, the date is arbitrary – the beginning of the financial year, for example. If your project is behind schedule and you can move the end date, then gain agreement to do that. Don’t assume that the end date is set in stone – it may not be. Ask the question! Rather then rush the project and deliver a sub standard product, move the end date, if you can and deliver a brilliant product!
Take a lesson from nature and complete the task when the time is right. Not always possible to delay the delivery date, of course, but when it is, do it. If you wait until the right time rather than trying to hit an artificially imposed deadline, the final result will be far superior!
An elderly Jewish man lay dying in his bed. While suffering the agonies of impending death, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favourite matzo balls wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, gripping the railing with both hands, he crawled down stairs. With laboured breath, he leaned against the doorframe gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven, for there, spread out upon waxed paper on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favourite matzo balls.
Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted Rivka of sixty years, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself towards the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture. His parched lips parted, the wondrous taste of the matzo balls was already in his mouth, seemingly bringing him back to life.
The aged and withered hand trembled on its way to a ball at the edge of the table, when suddenly it was smacked with a spatula by his wife……
“Get off you old fool” she said, “they’re for the funeral”.
Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes and manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: firstname.lastname@example.org