Lessons from the snow

Experiencing snowfall is new for me, having grown up in tropical Singapore.  Even though I have lived in London and California for a few years, they were never cold enough to snow big time.  Small flakes, occasionally, but never enough to accumulate and stay frozen on the ground.

After a night of snowing, the sight that greets you the next morning is a pretty one.  When all the details and complexities you always see are covered up by fresh white snow, everything looks simple and neat.  Perhaps that’s why snow is so mesmerizing.

But snowfall creates its own chaos too.  How do we walk with so much snow around?  How do we drive without skidding?  If the thought of shoveling your driveway is tiring, think about the miles of roads and highways blanketed by thick snow, which can easily be a foot (about 30min) thick or more?

This was the feeling I got when I woke up on New Year’s Day and took Rusty out for his walk.  It was early in the morning, and the streets were empty and quiet.  Looking at the thick blankets of snow (which had not been shoveled), the first thing that came to mind was, “How are we going to remove all this snow??”

snowed in

We often have a similar feeling when we face challenges in our organizations.  At times, there are so many issues to address it feels overwhelming.  Almost like having to shovel the whole city (and the miles of roads and highways) on your own.

The first thing about shoveling is that we are never tackling all the snow.  We are only clearing those paths and roads we want to use, moving snow from where we don’t want it to where we don’t mind it (at least for the time being).  Still a tough job, but not as bad.  Somehow, the task is more manageable.

Likewise, in organizations if we have to solve all the issues at once, we would be overwhelmed.  Many of us feel that way.  What if, like shoveling snow, we know which critical issues we need to clear and which issues we need not  tackle right away?

The other thing is that it’s easier to shovel snow when it is still fresh.  When the snow is less than a day old, it is fluffy and light.  But if you wait too long, and people walk all over them, the snow melts, refreezes, and becomes solid and hard.  It becomes a lot harder to shovel.  The same with organizations.  It is easier to address issues earlier on, than when they have sat around and festered, or worse, become connected to other issues!

Shoveling is easier when everyone does it, or at least everyone who has a footpath in front of their house.  I received a notification the other day from the city council reminding everyone that shoveling your footpath is the neighborly thing to do.  When everyone does their small part, it is easier and everyone else benefits.  The same with tackling issues in organizations – more hands make lighter work.

Finally, while we may curse and swear when we have to shovel snow, it helps to enjoy its other aspects.  As these next pictures show, along with the hard work and inconveniences, also come pretty sights and cute formations.  It is a reminder that in life things may not always go well, but it doesn’t mean we always have to be miserable  :)

snow beauty

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