Jumping Lines

by Chris Chambers on October 20, 2013

LineTypesI have a friend who always ends up in the wrong line at the store. At the airport security check point. At any place where there is a line.

Always. No matter what. The line he picks is the longest. It’s the one that needs a price check. The one where the person at the front lost their ID. The one where…the one where…the one where… Honestly, it doesn’t matter why.

His line could have two people in it. Every other line could have 4, 6, 7, 20. He’s still standing in it as the other lines clear.

But notice that I didn’t say, “…he always gets in the wrong line”. Because that would be incorrect. He usually gets in the right line. But, then, as he stands in that best line – the one he instinctively went to first, he notices what might be a hiccup. Or he sees another line that appears to be moving faster.  Or he just starts worrying.

And so he panics. And he jumps. And he moves to another line.

There is no careful consideration, no rational thought process. There is virtually no thought. There is only a knee jerk reaction, worry. And fear.

This may seem a bit extreme. After all, we’re talking about standing in line. But the stress of the rest of life is there with him in that line. The pressure to get back to the office or home to the kids. Worries about a deadline. Racing through because it might rain. They all kick in and contribute to this reaction – this underlying fear that causes the quick switch.

The quick switch that was wrong. That lands him in the ‘bad line’. And that ends up costing more time, more frustration and more stress.

He pathetically laughs about this curse (his endearing term, not mine) and always tells anyone that’s with him to stand in another line. He tells people not to follow him through the store. It’s become a bit of a joke, the stuff of folklore and late night stories. He thinks he’s simply having bad luck.

But it’s something that I see onsite all the time. And luck isn’t even remotely involved.

We’ve been planned a meeting, a launch, a broadcast, a ________ (fill in the blank) for months or weeks or years.  Everything is set. It’s been thought through. Scoured. Planned. Prepped. But at the last minute, compounded and piled on by bosses, higher ups, stress of deadlines, pressure of performance – people get scared.

They feel that knee-jerk reaction…when they see something shiny or smooth or new over ‘there’. They want to add it in. They want to change everything. Or something. They can’t stand still.

The imperative to jump lines is overwhelming.

It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to see that everything is going to be okay in the line we’re all in. That even if there are some bumps, we’re prepared for this line. It’s best to hold steady and move forward.

This isn’t about being risk averse. The pre-plan and strategy are packed with new, never-done-before ideas, we’ve pushed the limits. But we’ve done so in a way that is calculated.

Trust the plan, I say. The little devil on your shoulder urging you vehemently somewhere else is up to no good. It can smell fear.

Just ask my friend. He tells me the new line is always worse. And he always regrets his knee-jerk jump over ‘there’. Every time – he wishes he had just stayed where he was.

Chris Chambers, CEO , MJM    

 

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