A few days ago, I watched a couple of workers put down a sidewalk just outside my office window. They poured in concrete, and carefully leveled the surface until it was perfectly smooth. And then, much to my surprise, they went back and marred the flawless appearance by putting in grooved lines about every 2-3 metres. Turns outs there is a very good reason to do so. They were thinking ahead.
Thinking ahead … in sidewalk construction
You see, as concrete dries, shrinks, moves and bears weight, it can crack. These grooved lines are called control cuts, and because the area below them is thinner than the rest of the concrete slab, the cracks appear here rather than in random spots in the slab. In other words, by intentionally putting control cuts, the concrete has a chance to absorb shifts and changes, and thus to prevent cracks from appearing in all the wrong places!
And in leadership
As I watch these workers, it occurs to me that in our roles as leaders, we have many initiatives and projects on the go. And all of them face internal and external pressures that can cause them to “crack”. Which means that we should be thinking ahead. But often, we neglect to plan for when things go wrong. We forget to intentionally build in spots for our projects to accommodate shifts and changes. The risk, of course, is that without these “control cuts”, the whole thing “cracks” and falls apart. Whether it is innovative products, revised processes, or new customer experiences, we get so caught up in the optimistic possibilities that we forget to plan for inevitable risk.
There is no doubt the ground will shift. Are you thinking ahead? When the ground shifts, will you be ready? Are you designing “control cuts” as your normal part of your day-to-day, or are you going to be surprised when random cracks appear and cause your concrete to eventually crumble?
Does this story resonate with you and your experiences? I’d love to hear more about how you’re thinking ahead; how you’re planning for the “cracks” in your leadership responsibilities. Please share your perspectives by commenting below.