Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Noticing change – an opportunity to knit better

In my job I encounter some challenging management situations. To stay ahead of the mob I try to continually improve my management skills.

One of my favorite sources is a newsletter,
Crucial Skills, from VitalSmarts that is based on their book Crucial Conversations. A story I read in the latest newsletter struck me as being related to knitting. Stay with me – I’ll bring it all together at the end.

Steve Willis wrote in the Crucial Skills newsletter:
Last year, I had the opportunity to work for a company in Trinidad and Tobago. The company had secured the local town hall (a two story building with a tin roof) as the training site. Everything was set up properly, and the training was going along smoothly—that is until 1:45 P.M.

At exactly 1:45, rain started to fall. At first, the whole class moved to the rhythm of the falling rain—big drops hitting the tin roof at a perky tempo (somewhere in the range of 86 to 92 beats per minute; the perfect tempo to deliver a course). And then it really started to rain.

I found myself having to talk louder, then louder, and then louder still to be heard over the increasing din. Pretty soon I was yelling as loud as I could while holding my mouth in just the right way to approximate the Steve version of surround sound.

And right in the middle of yelling and projecting, I was drowned completely out by the thundering storm. I couldn't even hear my own voice. I looked around to see how the audience was reacting, only to be met with craning necks and straining ears. Needless to say, we took a break, relocated to a different area not so close to the tin roof, and repeated the lost portion of the training material.

Upon reflection, I realized that when faced with changing and often challenging conditions, many people believe they have only three choices: 1) keep doing the same thing, 2) increase the volume, or 3) better yet, keep doing the same thing while increasing the volume.
I've found over the years, that merely developing a skill set like crucial conversations isn't always enough. In order to apply the skills, we need to notice if and when conditions change. Then we can act.

So, as you consider what to do in order to improve your crucial conversations or confrontations skills, build cues and signs that will alert you to changing conditions and, in turn, help you notice opportunities to act. As you get better at noticing change, you won't have to spend the ten or fifteen minutes it took me to adjust my course.

I know you’re saying, what is wrong with this woman - how exactly does she think this relates to knitting?

This may be old hat to you experienced knitters, but I have really just grasped the concept that knitting requires noticing changes. Did I make a mistake? Is my gauge correct? Do I like the way it looks? Is it going to fit? You have to pay attention, really pay attention. No one told me about that part of knitting – that I needed to be alert to changing conditions and react.

And the part about choice number one – keep on doing the same thing - haven’t we all just continued to knit on something that we knew in our heart was not going to work?

To put a knitting spin on Steve Willis’s last sentence, as you get better at noticing change in your knitting you will be better at adjusting your pattern in mid-stream. That should reduce the chance that you wasted your precious knitting hours on something that doesn’t work.

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