We may not spend a lot of time thinking about it, but friction plays a pretty big role in our lives –both positive and negative. Friction is part of what makes it hard to get my bike up the next hill (I’m sure our Pelotonia team can verify that), but it’s also what makes it possible to stop my bike before the railroad tracks. While we can reduce or minimize friction, it’s always present.
So when engineers design engines, they plan for friction. They know when an engine runs, unexpected stuff happens. Determining the exact cause of the problem can be complicated. Seasoned mechanics often will combine computerized diagnostics with their own knowledge and experience to figure out the issue. It’s just part of the design process. There’s no drama involved. We could learn from that approach.
When stuff happens in life, things get more complex. Friction in human relationships or endeavors is more difficult to understand. Often, we increase complexity even more by seeking more information and conducting more analyses. That’s not all bad, but it can spiral into levels of complexity, including organizational complexity — more meetings, decision delays, and specialized teams. We add layers of policy and processes intended to address the complexity, but it could make it worse. Essentially, we replace clarity with detail. As a result, activity increases and so does confusion. At the same time, trust decreases and so does effectiveness. It’s hard to stay focused on staying clear and focused when your legs feel like lead from trying to pump up that last hill.
Just because we encounter friction doesn’t mean we’re headed in the wrong direction or need to abandon the project. We rarely will have the ideal conditions we might wish for. As things get rolling, stuff will happen, so plan for friction. See you there.