Fast Food Express Lane Blues …

Running - Presenter Media


Let me clarify …  


Sometimes in life, fast is good, helpful, or even essential.  Here are some instances of that, from the trivial to the vital:

When the food is supposed to be served hot.

When the work is due and others depend on your contribution.

When damage will occur to property if you do not act.

When a person needs immediate mental or psychological help.


We often apply this “Fast is sometimes good” concept incorrectly.   

First, we leave out the “sometimes”, assuming faster is always good.

Second, we apply the concept to everything in our lives.

I impatiently tap my foot while waiting the 45 seconds it takes to order, pay for, and receive my Biggie Burger from my favorite QuickNGreasy (trademark pending) drive-thru restaurant.

Waiting in line to be safe while flying on an airplane was so onerous that a “fast lane” option had to be created, so people were not “inconvenienced”.  This must have come from our grocery stores, which almost always have “fast checkout” lanes or even “self-check out“, both of which exist simply to get you out of the store even faster.

Many of us grow faint at the thought of actually reading an entire article, let alone a complete book, from the very first word to the very last … we demand an “Executive Summary”, which in my opinion is another way to say “I don’t have the attention span to concentrate on one thing for any significant amount of time.”

We have created this “Fast Food, Express Lane, Faster is Better, Executive Summary” perspective in many parts of our society and culture.   Now this might just be my misconceptions, while your experience with speed in our modern culture is different.  Take no more than 5 seconds to consider this possibility.

The problem is that we have created the need for all these incredibly quick ways to get through our days and nights for two reasons, at least in my experience:

We have too much to do and must find short-cuts in order to keep going.

We lack the ability to maintain a more focused and long-term approach to our work and our life. 

I  was thinking about all this recently, as I violently pounded my computer mouse on the desk, while impatiently waiting for a large amount of information to download.  Apparently I think a computer mouse works like elevator buttons … you know, press more often and harder to make the elevator come faster.

I was enraged at the idea of not having near instantaneous access to a 40-some page research article.

As I considered this, I remembered that I was originally miffed not to find a good synopsis of that multi-page article, to avoid reading the whole article completely so I would know what was in it.  That would take a lot of time.

Finally I zoomed out for a more objective view and realized that the reason I was searching for this information in the first place was to create a quick response to post on a social media site I frequent.   I was feeling the pressure of time before I ever saw the article and all of this was for a dubious purpose … why did my response need to be so quick?

Three learnings here for me, and possibly for you if you ever find yourself speeding along and wondering how you came to such a fast pace:


I like technology and love the rare occasions when I can claim the title of Early Adopter.  However, my pride exists as another example of “faster is better”.

Technology these days almost always is available before it works.  Think about those sporadic updates that begin whenever you acquire the latest and greatest technology.  

This is another way of saying “We need to fix that thing we sold you”, which would be unacceptable in many aspects of our consumer life, but which we meekly acquiesce with when it comes to our computers, our tablets, and our smartphones.

When our technology allows us to do things more quickly, we become used to doing things more quickly.   We do not always question whether doing something more quickly is doing something more effectively, enjoyably, or correctly.   Why is download speed so darned important, anyway?

We buy the latest and greatest (interpret as faster) gadgets just because they are supposedly faster than our current gadget.


I mentioned some reasons why speed might be important at the beginning of all this.  Those and other good examples of real reasons to move quickly aside, many of us have adopted a “Speed Is Good” mentality, which we often apply without question or distinction to every part of our lives.

When we accept that mentality, we tend to expect things to be faster, whether an objective reason for increased speed exists or not.  We now become very irritated and start pounding on inanimate objects simply because they do not deliver results as quickly as we expect them to do.

We are an impatient species these days.


Aside from situations that involve life or death, injury or harm, or involve me getting a hot cup of coffee in the morning, most of our daily activities could be accomplished at a slower pace than we tend to assume.

Our organizations are often leaderless in this respect, allowing cultures of speedy response and fast action to grow, rather than to instill a more thoughtful and calmer pace.  We blame competition for this emphasis on speed, even though the economic landscape is littered with the bones of organizations and people who “got there first”.  Technology is even less our friend in this respect than I mentioned above.

On a personal level, things are even less complicated.  You choose how you live … if you feel stressed because things are moving too fast, choose differently.


Of course, maybe I’m just feeling cranky this morning, because the pace of  my life seems to be negatively impacting the quality of my life.

If you can honestly say that more speed in your life IMPROVES the quality of your life, please ignore my ranting.

Seriously considering slowing down significantly in the very cloudy and soggy Heartland …


Image:  Presenter Media

Deceiving Self …

Over at the Lead Change Group blog today, some guy with a fictitious-sounding name is going on about how we deceive ourselves and why that is not a good idea.  Here’s a taste of what this so-called “John E. Smith” character is talking up this morning:


The Box of Self-Deception

Identify someone with a problem and you’ll be identifying someone who resists the suggestion that he has one.  That’s self-deception – the inability to see that one has a problem.”  

(The Arbinger Institute in Leadership and Self-Deception, 2nd ed., p. 17)

We are “in the box,” as the Arbinger folks say, when we engage in certain behaviors which create or reinforce our self-deception.

Of course, I’m not sure that the above is always the case. A leader who has a problem may be so self-aware, self-confident, and self-effacing that he or she simply acknowledges reality by making amendments and correcting their behavior.

However, most of us are not quite that perfect, so “the box appears to fit” in many cases, so to speak.    Continue reading here …

While you are on the Lead Change Group site, take a few minutes to poke around and sample some of the many useful and engaging posts around leadership and personal development from a diverse and accomplished group of writers, thinkers, and doers.

Shoot, you might even consider joining and adding your strong voice to our efforts to increase character-based leadership.

Meanwhile, I will stroll blithely on, believing strongly in my own cleverness in the Heartland …



Asking “Why?” …

Snow FLowerChip Bell regularly stimulates my leadership and management thinking … as he did recently with an amusing, but thought-provoking post over at the Lead Change Group, cleverly titled “Don’t Be A Leader of Stupid Rules, which ranks as one of my favorite blog post titles of 2016 so far.  

Chip’s post addresses the all too familiar tendency in the workplace to have rules and processes which everyone follows, but few know why.

Here’s my response to Chip’s post, with a little editing for clarity and expanded reflection:


I was once responsible for helping employees install a standardized organizational system for both paper and electronic workflow in an organization.  As part of that, I would spend much time working with individual employees as they literally took their workspace apart, organized all items into standardized categories and reorganized how they stored data and materials.

Analyzing work processes was a big part of this changeover.   One time,  an employee struggled with what to label a work step in which she received forms from another employee and in turn, gave them to a third employee, without doing anything to the forms, such as verifying or sorting.  After much discussion, we were unable to determine why she needed to do this step, other than that familiar “I was told this was part of my job and I’ve always done it this way” statement.

Similarly to Chip’s story about Catherine The Great and the flower , I finally learned from a long-time employee that decades earlier, two women who did not like each other each had responsibility for a step in this work process.  Since they could not get along, their manager chose to assign a third employee to receive and pass on the documents.

Over the years, just like the soldiers guarding the empty spot, generations of employees were taught to follow this  “system” without any awareness of why that step existed.

Two lessons here for me: 


This is first and foremost a failure of management.  The original manager had the authority and the opportunity to directly address the issue.

Had that original manager addressed the workplace impact of  both employee’s behavior with them, and either directed or coached the employees to work together without affecting workflow, this story would not be mine to tell to illustrate poor management practice.


Sometimes leaders overestimate their impact and sometimes they underestimate it.  Many employees, especially those new to a process, a workgroup, or an organization, will simply accept whatever they perceive as “the way we do it”.   In order to fit in, they then attempt to master doing whatever it is that the system requires them to do, with little reflection on why they are doing it

Fortunately, this is changing in the modern workplace, due to the efforts of a few thoughtful and forward-thinking souls.  A valuable employee is now more often seen as the one who will say “Wait … why are we doing this?” and expect a reasonable answer.   They will comply when to do so makes sense, but will question when motivations and reasons are not clear. 

Ira Chaleff is one of the most valuable and articulate voices driving this welcome workplace and societal trend.  For a great deal more about “FOLLOWERSHIP, click the link to read my previous post on this topic. 

Related Observation:  A GOOD MANAGER KNOWS WHEN TO ASK “WHY”  …

As an operations officer (think Chief Training Officer) in the US Army Reserve, I learned quickly that simply walking up to a tank idling in the wilderness and asking the crew “What are you doing?” as innocently as possible was a good thing.

Listening to the responses to this simple query would provide me with a wealth of insight into their morale, how the training was going, and whether they understood their roles and responsibilities within the context of our mission.

Pretty good return for a simple question …

Chip’s post is a good reminder of how we need to continually analyze what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whether we should stop or change doing it:)

Trying to remember to follow my own advice in the Heartland ….


Viewpoints and Books …


Book and Glasses - Morguefile.comThe purpose of a good education is to show you that there are three sides to a two-sided story.”

Stanley Fish

I have often heard some version of the following:

There are always three sides to an argument about the truth:   My side, your side, and the actual reality.

This is most likely very true, and as you add participants, the number of possible “sides” grows.  We are all creations of our culture, our experiences, our beliefs, and our values.

No wonder we cannot all just agree to get along … we cannot even look at something without creating multiple interpretations.   As has often been said, at least by me, “Your terrorist is my freedom fighter”.

Why am I harping on this today?

No special reason, even with the political campaign in full tilt boogie spewing examples over the landscape of how people see the same objective things very differently, very subjectively.

Take a little time to look at this image and think about what it seems to show you.  Cultural Optical Illusion -

We need to keep reminding ourselves that our natural tendency is to view people, things, and events through our personal lens, which sets up us to be influenced by our own biases, fallacious reasoning, and stereotypes … which we all have or experience in abundance.

About the image:  Western eyes usually see a family in a corner of a room with some kind of vegetation visible in the window.  African eyes see the “corner” as a tree and the window becomes a container balanced on a woman’s head.

We see what we are conditioned to see …

Education, especially the reading and discussion of books, can be one of several powerful tools to help us move beyond our own perceptions into the larger world, IF WE pay attention to the following suggestions:

… Choose books written to expand thinking, rather than control knowledge.

… Ensure that books are written in the spirit of discovery and curiosity, rather than the zeal of blind passion and persuasion.

… Select books that contain viewpoints with which we do not already agree.

… Discuss what we read with people that hold varying viewpoints and know how to talk, rather than just convince.

… Remember the sum total of all each of us individually knows is like a single drop of water in the ocean.

… Use what we learn  from books to support our own continued discernment.

… Avoid using what we learn as a weapon to convert others.

Books can be powerful  learning tools or dangerous weapons … as with many things in life, it’s more about how you use something.

Well, I feel a little more prepared to move forward thoughtfully now.  How about you?

Trying not to feel overconfident about my own learning path in the Heartland ….




Book and Glasses –

Optical Illusion –




Four Benefits to Failing …

Failure - Gene Kranz quote - Wikipedia Public DomainFailure - Train Wreck - Public Domain via WIkipedia

First, let me clearly state that the NASA team, under the steadfast leadership of Gene Kranz, displayed amazing teamwork, collaboration, and creativity under intense pressure.  The results speak for themselves … astronauts brought back to earth alive.

Truly a story worthy of a well-made film headlined by Tom Hanks, who brings gravitas and humanity to each role …

However, that said, you can add the famous line about failure not being an option to my list of things I will never say … Continue reading