Paradigms for Granted”
There’s nothing surer than that the Sun will
rise, the cycle of life will continue unabated, the lawnmower will need 10 pulls
to start it, and the market survey person will ring just as you sit down to
dinner. But what if that were suddenly not the case?
you ever tried blowing your nose with one hand? What about opening a can of
Spaghetti? As I sit here with my left arm immobilised, notionally on a
‘working holiday’, I’ve been having deep and meaningful thoughts about all
the things we take for granted. Like, it really does need both hands to balance
a notebook computer on your knee in bed, that is, if you want to type at the
same time. While the thumb will actually reach the Shift key while another
finger types the letter, it’s a bit of a stretch, and on more than one
occasion the left hand has, of its own volition and despite my determination not
to do so, darted forward in a misguided attempt to enter the fray, resulting in
an expletive to escape the lips and a few moments of contemplation on the
unfairness of it all. (I have tonight become aware, that there is a second Shift
key on the left-hand side. Never noticed it before.) One thing for instance,
that I keep taking as an absolute is that my musculature is as robust now as it
was 30 years ago. I appear to be a slow learner, or perhaps more truthfully, I
am in denial.
a brazen show of ‘This is not going to beat me’, after a physiotherapist had
spent an hour toying with my pain threshold, I took myself off to the Beach for
a solo walk in the fresh air, along with Walkman, good quality headphones, fags
(as a counterpoint to the fresh air, you know, it’s a Yin and Yang thing),
sunglasses, hat, and yes, the mobile phone - there are some things I will not
surrender. This required a short drive in the car, and I encountered the first
thing that car-makers take for granted, putting the gear shift in the middle.
Thank goodness it’s an auto - I have never understood why people buy manual
cars when automatics have been around for 40 years. Is it some kind of
background masochistic tendency, or are they simply unaware?
back now to that scene of my arrival at the beach makes me cringe a bit as to
how Mr Bean-ish it must have looked, to an observer with the patience to watch
the whole thing. Parking was not the issue – which of course I attribute to my
gender – it was what happened after that.
of the above-mentioned items of equipment are things I always take on a walk. I
have a Trouser of Many Pockets (Julian May readers will understand). But I had
never tried to do it all one-handed, while at the same time trying not to move
the other arm. Picture this if you can. I’m sitting in the drivers seat, and
beside me on the passenger seat are all the items required. I loaded them all
into the crook of my left arm, and then tried to swivel and get out. Why can’t
they make steering wheels that sink into the dashboard? Anyway, here are some
things I found out:
items in your left trouser pocket with your right hand is not easy. Getting them
out is almost impossible, especially when the pocket has a Velcro flap.
Headphones have a spring in the band to keep them on your ears – requiring two
hands to separate them. Changing the cassette requires two hands. Putting a
‘club’ on the steering wheel is almost impossible. An observer watching the
contortions would have been forgiven for thinking that I suffered from cerebral
my point?” I hear you ask.
take a moment to consider all the things to do with your work that you take for
granted. List a few of them. Things like ‘I don’t have trouble finding good
staff’, or ‘turnover is low among critical staff’ or ‘they’ll always
need a Human Resources Department’ or ‘I’ll always be a able to get a
job’. Leave some space under each item to write some thoughts.
treat each item in turn with the question:
if that were suddenly not the case?”
be brutal, what if you were made redundant tomorrow, only to find that your
professional qualifications were so outdated (or even inappropriate) to secure a
similar position elsewhere? What would you do?
Planning has a component part called ‘contingency planning’ which attempts
to identify things that today are taken for granted, but which if not true in
the future, would negatively impact the organisation – possibly even be fatal
to it. All I’m suggesting is that it might be beneficial to apply the same
thinking to your own department or position within your Organisation, and then
apply it to yourself. And the beginning of a new year is a good time to do it.
Steve Punter ANZIM,
Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2002 All rights reserved by the author.