There’s a really, really bad old joke where a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, “Doc, I am so confused. Sometimes I think I am a wigwam and sometimes I think I am a teepee.” The doctor says, “your problem is that you’re too tense…” [get it, tents???]
So here’s something that I know I take for granted most of the time. Springs. But they are amazing devices and they are everywhere. Watches, garage doors, shock absorbers and even my lawnmower’s ignition system. And most of the time, they work perfectly.
One time, though, a few years ago, I awoke in the middle of the night after hearing an enormous “BANG” sound downstairs. It took a while to figure out what had happened, but one of the giant springs that helps the garage door go up and down (check them out next time you have a minute to kill) had snapped in two. Yikes! I didn’t even know that could happen! Then I learned something else. Try lifting a garage door without those springs. It turns out that garage doors are REALLY heavy. Who knew?
Here’s the thing: springs work by creating just the right amount of tension. If there’s no tension, you can’t lift the garage door. If there’s too much, the springs snaps and goes recoiling everywhere.
I have noticed at several of my clients lately that there’s quite a bit of tension. The political tension between perfecting finicky software and meeting promised deadlines. The resource tension between getting things done and training new team members. And the ever-present tension between wanting to innovate but being constrained by real budgets.
These are your organization’s springs. I have come to appreciate that it’s not a bad thing that these tensions exist. They help balance opposing forces. That’s what springs do. The question is: do you know where the springs in your organization are, and are they too loose, too tight, or just right? Because you don’t ever want to wake up to a loud bang… trust me.