Monday, June 4, 2012

Living Things First

I recently posted a blog about the experience of moving.

The chaos of uprooting your household, changing your lifestyle, and disrupting your daily patterns can break your cadence.   As  you may have noticed last week, my blog posts were a bit delayed.  My usual evening writing time was devoted to supporting my family and the living creatures on our farm as we continue to unpack and  transition from suburban life in Wellesley to rural life in Sherborn, MA.

When I'm feeding the chickens, turning the compost, and repairing fences on nights and weekends, I've realized there are lessons learned for my work life.

Like so many things in the lifestyle that is being a CIO, it's all about triage. What must be done now?  What can wait?  How can you benefit the greatest number while doing the least harm?

I suggest focusing on living things first.

What does that mean?

When a plant needs water, time is of the essence.   At some point, the plant will be so stressed that no amount of water can save it.

When a young animal is hungry and cold, it can begin to fade, exhausting its minimal reserves.

Similarly, the people in our work lives need our support and attention.

Budgets, strategic plans, policymaking, interviews, and innovation can wait.   Patients, employees, and colleagues with urgent issues should not.

When I scan my email, I look for those issues that involve the well-being of the people I serve.   Some of those emails ask for urgent help with challenging political issues.   Some express anxiety or anticipation about upcoming meetings, complex projects, or new regulations.

I vow never to be the rate limiting step for people issues (or supporting any living thing).   I'll rapidly respond with my best answer, even if a complete answer will take a few days to research.    It's far easier to defuse an emotional situation or steer events back on course by acting rapidly instead of waiting for the situation to get worse.  

As an emergency physician, I often make decisions with incomplete information and need to tolerate ambiguity.    Focusing on the living things and keeping them stable in the golden hours when problems are still minor creates ample time for addressing less urgent issues when time permits.

Every ten years I reinvent my lifestyle - from entrepreneur, to winemaker, to Japanese flute player, to alpinist, and now to farmer.    I expect the lessons learned from the farm over the new few years will make me a better technology leader.   Even the few short weeks tending the chickens (photo of the coop we built is above) has given me the perspective of the importance of serving living things first.


DrYang@Blogger said...

I really learned a lot from this post! Thanks!

Victor Chai said...

How true it is! yet it is neglected in most workplaces.