Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Put Your Best People on your Most Boring Challenges

A guest article today from The Harvard Review via the Dynamic Small Business Network.

Don't you love it when someone crystalizes what you know already but haven't been able to put into words?

as organizations scale, they often slip, slide and default into less than mediocre processes that get the job done. Unfortunately, the job gets done in manual, jury-rigged or improvised ways that are deadly dull to manage and excruciatingly boring to fix…. [T]he real barriers to growth aren't around the ingenuity of value-added implementations; they're in the lag-behind, necessary evil support systems and three-quarter baked infrastructures desperately attempting to support them.

When we confuse process with result

Here's the scenario: you decide to spring clean your closet / hall cupboard / stationery store. You pull everything out to see what's in there, and have it all spread over every available surface at the point where your blood sugar falls through the floor or you're called away to another task. It all starts to feel pointless and counterproductive. You shove it all back in, any old how, and mentally curse yourself for being such a slob that even when you're trying to clean up you're still only making a bigger mess.

Congratulations, you've confused the process with the result. The result is a tidy and organised closet / hall cupboard / stationery store. The process is chaotic and appears disorganised. (People never believe that random looking piles of stuff are a form of order.)

Our new fitness regime is likely to suffer a similar fate. We don't feel (or look) trim, taut, energetic and terrific when we exercise, so when we hit our lowest ebb, we wonder 'what's the point?' We're confusing the result with the process.

Take this human tendency into the field of human relationships and you just know its going to go kablooey.

Can you see this pattern at work anywhere in your life?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The end of embalmed wood

I'm about to rave about a new non-toxic paint stripper, called soygel.

I love wood, which is why I dislike the plasticised finishes on so many items of furniture. Sure, you can put your coffee cup down on it without it marking, but sometimes the polyurethane is so thick - and tinted - it obscures the grain. One scratch and its ruined forever, there's no recovery. (With oil and wax, you just add some more and buff till the mark is gone.) And polyurethaned wood doesn't feel like wood, it feels like plastic. A book I once read on fine carpentery techniques called it 'embalmed wood'. I wish I could recall the author's name, because that's a genius phrase.

Soygel is the answer. As the name suggests, its a byproduct of soybeans. Its so non-toxic you supposedly can eat it out of the container (I wouldn't.) You can't eat it once its mixed with paint, you don't know whats in that stuff. It smells faintly fishy to me, in a 10 litre quantity, its not offensive in smaller doses. Compared to paintstripper it has no smell worth mentioning.

The thicker the paint/varnish, the thicker you apply the soygel. It goes on a bit runny and thickens up to the consistency of jelly (aka jello) once it combines with the paint/varnish. Two hints - use a brush that doesn't have a painted handle otherwise you'll end up with soygel on the paintbrush and it will lift off staining your hands. Don't use a foam 'brush' - the soygel seemed to break down the foam.

Wait a while then use a plastic scraper to literally scrape the paint-infused gel off the surface.  You don't need anything as aggressive as metal scraper. Wipe the scraper off onto paper towel. A while is around 30 minutes but can be up to 2 hours. If you leave it too long, it dries hard again, so you just apply some more soygel. On a flat surface, and with the optimum amount of time, you can just scraper the gunk off the edge of the item straight into a waiting container.

At the end, wipe the item down with warm soapy water and any residue will be removed. Unless your item is very damaged there is NO NEED TO SAND. Really.

Life will never be the same again. Viva human ingenuity.