There are Lots of Cones

It was one of those strange moments where your brain connects two seemingly unrelated things that reveals or confirms an insight; my latest was whilst driving with my wife to visit her parents this last weekend. We were trundling along with the Saturday traffic through the Cambridgeshire countryside when just over the brow of a hill a set of temporary traffic lights appeared, which could have been less than ideal if the traffic had been moving faster.

As we sat there waiting for the lights to change I noticed the bright orange cones and plastic fencing, but then realised that something was not quite right. All the bright colours indicated work, but a closer inspection revealed that there were no people, no equipment, no piles of aggregate and no holes in the road. It was as if someone just had time to set the lights up before knocking off and abandoning everything for a start on Monday morning, leaving us motorists the pleasure of queueing patiently all weekend.

As we drove off I commented to Sandra, who was swapping photos with the family on her phone, what I had noticed, she glanced up and said, " Oh, I just saw the cones and assumed they were working". That was my moment - what an allegory for life and business; we are busy, we notice the signs of progress and assume something is happening, and there is the problem. When we assume progress is being made, we might simply be sitting at a red light under the illusion that tangible results are forthcoming.

How do we know if work is really happening? The key here is to look for the results, are you getting the outcomes you want? Is your career progressing, are your relationships deepening, is your business delivering what you want, or have you been blind sided by orange cones?

  • We can be busy, but not productive.
  • We can be efficient without being effective.
  • We can be be speaking without communicating.

Once we realise that cones don't always mean results we look past the surface and search out what is really taking place. Am I going where I want to, are my team delivering or just filling their days, am I swimming or treading water?

These aren't always easy questions to ask ourselves, and even harder to answer, but they are worth it. The alternative is our lives being spent on things that don't deliver, and whilst money flows and can be spent again and again, our time can only be used once, so let's use it well.

 Go well my friend.

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