As David was growing up, there was always a project going on in and around his family’s century-old farmhouse. When his parents bought the small farm at auction, many suggested they tear down the buildings on the property and start fresh, but financial limitations made a new build impossible. Instead, his family applied a DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to the things that needed to be done. It was in this context that Grandpa Ray taught David a valuable woodworking proverb, “Measure twice, cut once.”
Careful measuring is part of being a master woodworker. Cut the wood improperly, and the piece is ruined. Plus, it’s faster to double-check a measurement than to make a mistake and go looking for a new board. While this seems like common sense, when people are trying to move quickly on a project, measuring twice is a small step that’s often discarded, which leads to pain and frustration (oh the stories that David could share).
As a leader in today’s fast-moving world, maybe you can relate to other leaders who share experiences where, in hindsight, they didn’t spend enough time thinking through the organizational “cuts” that they were making. Maybe you’ve implemented a process change without getting perspective from the front-line workers or customers who are most heavily impacted by the change? Or maybe you’ve changed the way your department operates without consulting other departments up and down the process chain? If you’ve had those experiences, you’ve likely been frustrated by the fact that you had to stop the process and measure again.
We want to share two ways that leaders can apply this trade axiom in their context to minimize wasted time and energy.
Slow Down to Process, Think, and Reflect
Most of us lead within environments characterized by speed and complexity, and we know that our decisions can impact the lives of others in positive and negative ways. Those factors demand that we intentionally slow down and process our decisions before we execute them. The value of pausing to process, think, and reflect doesn’t just apply to the front end of decisions but also on the back end. Peter Drucker, the grandfather of modern management thought, is credited with saying, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
Many of us would benefit from reflecting on our emotions, attitudes, behaviors, and reactions after a tense interaction, an important meeting, or execution of a big project. Taking even 5-10 minutes of asking ourselves what we could have done better and what we did well in the situation could improve our performance moving forward.
Slow Down to Ask Questions
As Grandpa Ray got older and his eyesight faltered, he would ask others to get their eye on the measurement (e.g., “Am I reading that right?). As leaders, regardless of our years of experience, we should be aware that our vision has limits. Before launching projects, making critical decisions, and implementing new processes, we should slow down to seek perspective from others. For us, this comes down to asking questions like:
- What should our team be aware of before we make this decision?
- Do you believe this strategy accomplishes our goal?
- If we implement this decision, how would it impact you and your team?
Questions like these provide valuable information that can cause us to slow down to think through challenges on the front end so that we get greater buy-in and fewer organizational hiccups when we implement.
Measure Twice Reflection: Has you or your team’s hurried pace cost you time and energy? Identify what step(s) you need to apply to ensure your organizational moves are better executed.