A colleague of mine had a recent conversation with a new client. This client had, for several years, facilitated the annual operational planning process with his (fairly small) organization. Although he was generally fairly happy with the outcome, he often felt conflicted during the process when playing the roles of both facilitator and team leader. As he put it, “I felt as though I had one cheek in my chair at the table and the other one at the front of the room.” He found it difficult to maintain either role effectively and it made him feel as though he wasn’t able to give his best effort. It was frustrating at times and might have affected the quality of the team’s discussion and decisions.
His experience was by no means unique. I believe most of us have the “DIY gene” in our makeup – it’s just a question of the degree to which it influences the choices we make. Its influence over us is amplified, or diminished, I think, by a number of factors:
1. Our energy level and capacity to take on the task.
2. Our understanding of the problem or situation.
3. Our ability to access the tools and techniques needed to perform the task.
4. Our access to funding (or conversely, the inherent frugality of our nature).
5. Our ego.
I want to do some more thinking on how these have played out in my professional experience, and will write about them in future entries. For now, let me cite a personal example from my own distant past…
My first car, a little front-drive sedan, took its fair share of abuse – this from a lethal combination of spirited driving and questionable judgment. Needless to say, this led to a string of minor mechanical issues; and then, finally, the show-stopper. A ball joint in the front suspension had worn to the point where failure was imminent – and failure would have catastrophic consequences if it occurred while the car was in motion. This had to be fixed, and soon. So, to review the list of DIY factors above, I had:
1. Time and energy a-plenty. It was summer, I was out of school and had lots of free time on the weekends.
2. A sympathetic mechanic, who explained what was damaged and showed me a shop drawing of the components. (This was WAY before the internet, and access to information was a whole different game back then!)
3. A jack, a drill, a hammer and a long list of expletives for when the going got tough.
4. A shortage of cash (I was a student, and summer wages paid for parts – barely – but not labour).
5. Absolutely no sense of where the boundaries of my capabilities might lie. This led to unfounded optimism and confidence (and, perhaps, the aforementioned questionable judgment).
I did it. Myself. It took me an entire afternoon (a properly equipped and trained mechanic would have completed the job in about an hour or less). I felt great self-satisfaction when the work was done (see #5, above).
Was the job any good? Well, it held together as long as I needed it to. Six months later the vehicle was written off when a driver slid through a stop sign and smashed into my car, which subsequently head-butted a very stout tree. On several counts, I think fortune smiled on me. No injuries, and no adverse consequences from my inadequacies as a backyard mechanic.
Would I do it again, today?
Let me get back to you on that.