Monday, February 15, 2016

Re-think That Thing


A couple of mundane, weekend chores helped remind me about the ever-present need to re-visit assumptions. They were no where close to being exciting - and bordered on the inane, but for different reasons they reminded me about tasks that we take on in our projects, and the assumptions we operate on.
Exhibit #1 - two many household electronics, not enough outlets. We all know this one: where am I going to plug this new thingamajig in to keep it charged? Well about a week ago I decided I had enough plug-swapping and needed to expand the capacity of select outlets in my home. The act of pulling one plug out, temporarily putting in another, then repeating the whole cycle ad infinitium, ad nauseam was beginning to irk me.
So we were at Target and I started buying outlet expanders: a six-outlet tap here, a power strip there, etc. etc. At the checkout when the cashier announced some ridiculously large number, and my wife asked what the heck we had purchased. I coolly decreed that it was all necessary and non-discretionary. But truth be told I was unnerved at how expensive outlet-expansion was going to be...
At home I plugged in a dazzling new surge protector here, a USB-expansion outlet there, but all the while that number at the checkout was bothering me. It made me curious - was there another way? A quick rummage through the house revealed: an under-utilized 3-way tap here, an un-loved power strip there, a still-in-the-box adapter up in that closet. Before long, I had assembled pretty much everything I needed to replace that shopping bag. Moving one or two items to different, empty outlets was the final step. At the end of it all, I was able to return every one of the items I purchased back to the store.

Exhibit #2 - a mountain of snow, and a path to the bus. Unless you lived under a rock last month, you probably heard about the blizzard event on the east coast. There was plenty of white stuff blocking roads and sidewalks for days on end. The school system finally decided to re-open it's doors, but there was no easy way for my young kids to walk to the bus-stop. On the corner crossing, Mt. Snow-everest stood in their way.
So I took to shoveling that corner. I started from one end - towards the middle things got rough. Lots of snow to move and it was wet and heavy at this point. I started from the other side - same story: going somewhere, but not nearly fast enough for me. So I climbed on top of this mess and surveyed around - and just for the heck of it, started shoveling there. Low and behold, the snow up top was kinda light - a lot easier to move from the top-down. In a matter of minutes I had reduced that great big mound of impasse to a manageable level. Now with an even level of material, I made quick work of the rest of the path.

Two different examples, same important story: check your assumptions in order to minimize your effort. Do you really need to spend that money, to accomplish what you need? Do you already have resources at hand your not fully utilizing? And if you must go through that effort, can your change your approach to ease the workload for everyone involved? These are all things that we should constantly be on the lookout for in our project lives.