Ideal is Closer Than You Think

A few weeks ago, I went to agile NYC‘s Agile Day 2014.  During the Open Space, I suggested a session titled “Sounds great in an ideal world, but…”

When the group convened, I started by noting the great number of times recently where a discussion of Agile ideas was followed by someone saying, “That sounds great in an ideal world, but it would never work for my company/department/team.”  I asked if anyone had thoughts on why that answer was so pervasive, or how one might respond to such statements.

Early on, someone asked how I defined an ideal place.  So, I wrote “the ideal place” in the center of a piece of paper and facilitated the group’s mind mapping of what that was.  When the ideas started to peter out, I asked a question: “How many people feel that their current workplace is not this ideal place?”  Almost everyone raised their hands. I looked at a guy with his hand down, thinking my wording had just been confusing, and asked, “Wait, so you are saying your workplace is ideal?”  His response was so awesome:

“Well, no, but we’re always working to make it better.  I mean, I don’t think you ever get to the ideal place.  But if you are working toward it, that’s the best you can do.”

I’ll be honest: I started the session with soapboxy intentions.  People talk about the ideal workplace like it exists out there, and as though their own problems would go away if they were hired there.  My brilliant plan was to say to people: if you don’t think your world is ideal, it is up to you to make it ideal.  But then this guy’s answer floored me with its beautiful simplicity.  If you are working to make things better, you are already in the ideal place.  I’ve heard variations on this before, but it really sank in for me this time. Suddenly, the ideal seemed a lot closer!

As for the guy who said this: I don’t know your full name.  If you read this, please let me know: I’d love to credit you for saying this wonderful thing.  And thanks!

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