We’ve all heard the story about the ostrich sticking its head in the sand when faced with danger, hoping that the “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me” rule takes effect, keeping them safe from harm.
Well, the fine folks at the American Ostrich Association have confirmed that it is in fact a myth: not only do ostriches not bury their heads in the sand (the holes they dig are for their eggs, not their noggins), they are actually very cunning defenders of their territory, taunting predators with their speed and drawing them away from their nests, keeping both the adult ostrich and their eggs safe.
So, the “Head in the Sand” is a myth for ostriches… but, perhaps it’s no myth for businesses.
Every business spends time constantly pushing and pulling its head into and out of the sand. Sometimes they do it ignorantly, pressing ahead with critical tasks, completely unaware of a festering problem. Other times they do it out of fear, knowing that something is wrong but hoping that the issue will just-go-away.
To be clear, neither scenario is all bad. Trying to tackle too many issues at once, jumping to a solution too soon, or being just plain busy are all valid reasons for getting back in the sand. However, businesses who never pull their heads out of the sand risk missing out on change, becoming stagnant or worse – irrelevant.
But when companies do pull their heads out of sand, two interesting things happen. First, they grow. They either identify an opportunity to change that they were completely unaware of, or they stand up to the challenge they were trying to avoid and deal with it. In either case the company becomes stronger and more mature in their skills and practices.
Second (and ironically), they put their heads right back in the sand! Overcoming any challenge results in (you guessed it) more challenges, and the company is again forced to act, ignore or delay taking action.
In Red Argyle’s case, when our team was smaller, our project management practices were very basic, often taking a “one person per project” approach to getting work done. We knew it was inefficient, but we were also very busy, trying to bootstrap the growth of the company ourselves through the work coming in. So we stuck our head in the sand, delaying any action to improve our project management processes in favor of growing the company’s size.
Recently, we pulled our head back out and really worked on the problem, not only from a project management perspective, but also from a collaboration and development best practice perspective. It was a company-wide effort and had the great side effect of uncovering the expertise and specialization of each Red Argyle team member. In short, we grew…
…and, in growing, we discovered more things to improve (and, no doubt, have yet to discover still more), including further refining our project management methodology, gathering better metrics, and working to become a “data-driven” company. But, we also have products to build and clients to support (albeit now with better approaches than before) so, back in the sand we go.
This continuous cycle of discovering, prioritizing, and evolving is the most exciting part of growing Red Argyle as a business. Balancing when to have our head in and out of the sand is teaching us to stop fearing change and start looking for change.