Under the covers
I did some unexpected off-roading last week, as mentioned in a prior post.

On the surface, everything looked fine.  I even took the car on a planned road trip to Vermont…several hundred miles of high-speed driving there and back.  It drove as I would have expected, so I thought everything must be okay.

As in many things in life, and in work, it was what was going on beneath the surface that was of concern.

It wasn’t until we returned home that I worried things were not quite as they seemed.  A strange clunk here or a little bit of a bumpy ride there at slower speeds told me I might have a problem.

I asked my husband to take it for a ride.  He thought everything was okay, until he pulled into our garage.  He noticed something a little odd in the handling or the sounds the car was making.  Time to take a closer look.

I had taken the car to a car wash, with undercarriage cleaning, to get all the mud out.  However, it turns out my car has a cover over all the suspension and other sensitive components under the car.

When my husband looked under the car, he could see gravel and rocks packed into the component area.  While the car seemed okay on the surface and performed adequately for now, there was a problem under the covers that would quickly cause a very costly repair if it wasn’t rooted out.

Ironically, the events of the last week have paralleled what I often find at work, particularly in a new role or project.  At first, the focus is on the obvious opportunities or challenges.  Those things that look okay get a pass, because you can only focus on so many things at a time.

Once you get into a rhythm, you start to get a sense for those things that feel a little off.  The way people talk about certain things aren’t quite aligned or you realize there are conversations or activities that aren’t happening that should be.

On the surface, projects, processes or interactions may look okay.  If you get a sense that something is not quite right, it might be time to look under the covers to figure out what’s really happening.  Because, like the rocks in the component area, there may be a very costly challenge just around the corner if those issues are ignored.

 

Have you found yourself in a situation where things look good on the surface, only to find there were issues going on that had to be rooted out?  I would love if you could share your experience in the comments and keep the conversation going.