Earlier in my career, I worked as a consultant for Delphi Corporation. One of the best parts of my work was the ease at which I was able to get things done and the access I had within the organization. Whether I was requesting an impromptu visit from the CEO or asking for data, I was able to collaborate meaningfully and produce results quickly.
However, the visibility of the projects I was working on gave me a false sense of what it took to get things done in the organization. I even wondered, “Why do people complain so much about the bureaucracy?”
Five years after working with the organization as a consultant, I received an offer to join the organization full-time as a People Development Manager. I jumped at the chance, eager to bring my knowledge to bear on building a world-class organization.
However, from the moment I became a full-time employee, my output slowed to a snails’ pace. Requests that used to take days, now took weeks. No longer could I press a button and information would appear. I was inching along as if in quicksand—I could move forward, but it took a lot more effort than it had before. It was a real eye opener and I finally understood the frustration that people were experiencing.
I’ll never forget what the CPO’s administrative assistant said to me when I joined the company, “Our executives have no idea what it takes to get things done. We have to move heaven and earth to accomplish anything, and we have to drop everything to accommodate requests. Welcome to the real world.”
Now as I work with others, I acknowledge that they also may be mired in quicksand that I can’t see. They may experience sources of interference that they don’t have control over and that I don’t know about or understand. It’s easy to presume, but if we can recognize that we all find ourselves “stuck in the mud” from time to time, we’ll have a lot more understanding and empathy for those on whose output we depend.