Taking the long view

When the snow is falling heavy, and you’re armed with only shovels and a battery-powered snow blower, you have to keep up with the accumulation on the ground. I spend the daylight hours shoveling and the evening hours working. It makes for long days and sore muscles, but I get satisfaction from doing things the right way.

The quickest way to clear our driveway is simply to go up and down with the blower, back and forth from the garage to the street.  But, this leaves banks along the sides of the driveway causing visibility problems when you pull your car out into the street.

The better way is to first push the snow in from one of the edges. Then you run the blower across the driveway, parallel to the street. Using this approach, you can usually catch a good wind from the south west that carries the snow well into the yard.

It takes longer, but the end result gives you more room to keep piling snow all season long.

 It’s particularly important not to build “side banks” early in the season because the snow is going to keep coming. Once the banks reach 5 feet, you’re left to using a shovel to get the snow up and over.

Early in January we had a big storm overnight. With the kindest of intentions, a neighbor cleared our driveway before we woke up, leaving huge snow banks.  When it snowed again the following week, it took long, hard work to get it cleared.

As I was tossing snow over my head, I was reminded of the time my team was asked to restructure  our client’s whole curriculum. The project was given an aggressive timeline. In order to finish on time, we would have to make instructional design choices that we otherwise would not recommend.

I spoke to my executive team about the potential problems that may arise from this design. I offered alternatives that pushed the project out a few months, but would deliver a better product while still meeting the project’s other goals.

Ultimately, the executive team chose to go with the deadline-driven schedule. My professional responsibility had been to inform the executives of the risks and provide alternatives so they could make a better-informed decision. After the decision was made, my only responsibility was to get the project done on time and with as good a quality as possible.

My team ending up winning an award from the project sponsor for saying yes when others would have said no. After about a year, the problems I predicted would arise surfaced and needed to be dealt with. At that point, it was much more expensive to fix them.

Another of my snow removing techniques is for handling “plow piles” — the hedge of densely packed snow “boulders” that are left at the end of your driveway after the city plows come through. My husband goes at them with brute force, either trying to chew through them with the blower or using a shovel.

My way looks wrong, but it’s easier. I push the piles into the driveway, breaking up the large chunks of snow so that our battery-powered blower can handle them. 

One time, my husband and I had cleared our whole drive except for the plow pile. He had to leave for a meeting, and gave me a disbelieving look when I said I’d finish the rest. This was after a blizzard, and the plow pile was 3 feet deep.

When he returned, the plow pile was spread all over the driveway. He laughed and said, “This looks worse than when I left!”  But in a matter of minutes, I had the driveway completely clear.

As I basked in the glory of that patch of pavement, I was reminded of how difficult it can be to get feedback on a project while its in development.

I once sent an early draft of an eLearning lesson out for review. It was my team’s first attempt at putting the script into a visual framework, and I was looking for a check that the story and flow still made sense. Even though I asked the reviewers to ignore the visuals, one person from the sales department sent a rather unfriendly reply, including a long list of critiques about how the product looked. He concluded by saying the project was a failure given the number of changes needed.

I invited him over to my desk, and we walked through all his suggestions.  I demonstrated to him that the items he thought were a big deal, took only a button click to modify. His concerns were put to rest, and I learned a valuable lesson.

In past projects, my reviewers were other IDs or software developers, people who were used to thinking about functionality and graphics as separate and who weren’t put off by a wireframe. The experience with the salesman made me realize that for some people, appearance matters. A lot.

Since then, when working with new clients, I take more time to work on the graphics of any drafts I send out for review. It’s meant that I can’t always fit in as much content at each phase, or move a project along as quickly as I would have wanted. But overall, the projects go more smoothly.

The view from my office one fine morning in early spring.  Lovely, no?

It’s been a long, snowy winter. As I watched the snow falling last week, I thought how depressing it would be if you didn’t know that warmer weather was only a couple weeks away. Depressing. Maybe even defeating, worrisome, or at least frustrating.

Sometimes, a project can seem like a long slog through wet snow with changing winds that make it difficult too see the road ahead. At times like these, we need to take the long view. To deal with surprises, like blizzards in springtime and trust that spring is just around the corner.

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