Find the Invisible Web

"We live in a web of ideas, a fabric of our own making. " — Joseph Chilton Pearce

On our morning walks we often find spiders suspended in mid-air. They seem to be defying gravity. Sometimes when the sun is just right and we tilt our head in the right way, we can find the web but only a portion of it.

On one special morning, the dew made the invisible magic of the spiders visible. The webs we found were complex feats of engineering designed to support the spider and the future other insects it will capture.

When working in complex organizations and projects we can often find mysterious problems, hanging magically in the middle of a meeting, seemingly suspended in mid-air. If we tilt our heads the right way, we might get a glimpse of the web that is holding that problem in place.

Exceptional leaders will work to consistently create the dew that exposes the web that is catching those problems. How do you this? Start with constantly asking why.

  • Why are our projects late? Is it requirements issues? Is it high rework? Is it lack of the right skills?
  • If it is requirements issues, ask if you are freezing requirements and insisting on a proper change control process. If there is change control process and it is not working, ask "why it is failing?"
  • If the why it is failing is found to be intense pressure from management or customers, ask where that pressure is coming from. Also ask "are doing the customer a disservice by not insisting on a proper change control process?"
  • If you have high rework, ask more why questions. Is the rework due to the perception of irrational pressure by leadership that leads to shortcuts and mistakes? Is that pressure coming from you?

I often find that the problems that are plaguing troubled teams are directly related to the cultural web they and the management above them have created. Questions like these expose the web.

Personally, I love all the spider webs I see. Note that the key difference is the spiders are not catching problems, they are catching food.

As exceptional leaders, let us all commit to spinning cultural webs that are catching opportunity and excellence.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT