Do you like to be totally in control, when everything goes according to your plan? No surprises. No variation. Just predictability.
I do. It would be awesome to be totally in control of my energy level, calendar, clock, other people on the road, customer behavior and project work. That would freaking rock!
Of course, all of these are things that change fast and continuously. It is useless to dream about controlling them. Control is an illusion.
One of the most familiar things in my world of software testing is the test management. If we think about a situation, where the team has been working on a new software version for a long time. The only thing to do before releasing would be to run the typical set of 180 checks before the release decision.
During the very last check, number 179 actually, we discover a critical bug. We just wasted all of our effort, and we need to rerun the whole checklist after the fix. Controlling a coincidence is hard.
Do I have to repeat it here? Control is an illusion.
Often that dream gets killed by accident. In situations when a grand surprise makes one face the irrefutable facts. And I’m not talking about Christmas surprises here. Those are fun.
I mean the kind of surprises we like to call problems.
It is true that the illusion of control can be necessary for people. We require it for a feeling of security that every human being needs to some extent. This sense of safety is for many a prerequisite to freedom and creativity. So I may feel safe to test my limits or fail for example.
We can not create the sense of control by working to fight against the laws of nature. We can not do it by gripping the steering wheel forever tighter.
Control is not a result of structuring work, pushing processes, shaping strategies or emergency braking either. By doing more of those things, we only end up in exhaustion and injury. The necessary illusion is born another way.
How able do you feel in front of all the challenges thrown at you by the world? What is your capacity to handle whatever comes your way?
If we can not control the world, what can we control then?
The answer is obvious once we think about it. The only thing we have some control over is ourselves and the capacities that we have. Our physique, state of our mind, the quality of our sleep or diet, our relationships, our skills and our professional reputation to mention few.
Yet, working on those important things just happens to be so dreadfully dull, and therefore it is difficult.
The same principle holds true in both personal and professional life. It even holds true in teams and larger organizations. It is not in the grip of the management that creates success stories. It is all about the capacities of an organization, that is a sum of its individuals.
Focus on capacity over control!