Posts Tagged ‘Flexibility’

Not everyone is flexible (and I don’t mean physical flexibility).  We have all experienced the frustration of attempting to cut through red tape, only to be stopped at every turn by someone whose sole purpose in life seems to be making everyone else’s life difficult.  We usually don’t walk away from those experiences with a very high opinion of the people, organizations or processes involved.

Plans can be good.  Processes can be good.  Attempting to enforce tried and true ways of getting things done and documenting them to a reasonable degree is good.  But so is being flexible enough to evaluate the current situation, apply a little judgment and common sense, and then stray from the planned or normal path if needed in the interest of doing what is best for all concerned.

The thought comes to mind today because of news I got this morning that potentially impacts plans I have to start teaching a new class in August.  I think it will still happen, but suddenly I have a far smaller group to start with than originally thought.  When given the update, my response was to suggest that we just play it by ear the next few weeks to see how things unfold this month regarding the potential audience.  We can adjust our plans as needed as the August start date approaches.

As someone coming up on his ninth anniversary at a large, Fortune 100 company, I’ve seen my share of processes that morph into monsters over time with all the flexibility of petrified wood.  From my perspective as one responsible for our social media presence in a fast-moving world, those processes sometime hold us back from communicating and responding in ways that best serve the public and the immediate expectations of our customers.  Over time, I hope that will change for the better.  I don’t expect a large ship to turn on a dime, but I do expect it to turn when needed.

In personal matters, in business processes as well as other aspects of government and society, we’ll all be a bit better off if we keep in mind the value of leap year lesson #180 – Be flexible.

As you might suspect, pulling off an eight-day trip to China takes planning.  There are the logistics of obtaining passport, visa, flights, insurance, hotels, ground transportation, admission and ticket info to various tourist spots, and more.  In our effort to visit churches and take part in services, there was coordination to have participants from multiple churches celebrate with us in one place on days and times they would not normally gather .  We needed to arrange an interpreter to be with us for such visits in order to speak to the congregations.

Such a trip could not happen without adequate planning and I am thankful for the several people involved in those efforts.

At the same time, there was an ongoing need for flexibility.  We did not know, for example, that one church had prepared a dinner for us to eat after their service.  We had other plans, but needed to quickly change them and graciously accept the dinner prepared by our hosts.  When driving to one church, we were a bit surprised to find the road come to a dead end.  We had to turn around and go a different way.

After another service in a rural area, someone suggested a different route back to the city that was about 20 kilometers shorter.  We took that route only to find that it was a dirt road filled with huge potholes.  Our 20-kilometer-shorter trip was suddenly plodding along at 5 miles per hour as we zigzagged down the road that others obviously knew to avoid.  Twenty fewer kilometers doesn’t help if you have to reduce your traveling speed by from 60 to  5 mph.

Flexibility was needed regularly in order to accommodate gracious hosts and to take advantage of conversations that could not possibly be planned in advance.

In business, nonprofit or personal life, we have to make sure that we plan well in order to accomplish our objectives.  But never allowing room for adjustments or last-minute changes is a mistake.  We need to be sensitive to new possibilities – especially interpersonal ones – as they arise, and adjust for unpleasant surprises that will inevitably happen.

Leap year lesson #114 is Find a balance between planning and flexibility.