Dealing with Obstacles: Lessons from the Trail, Part 2

This is part 2 of my 3-part series on my insights from my backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend. You can view the first post here.

Overcoming Obstacles... Over, Under, or Around?

The Lone Star Hiking Trail is full of huge, towering trees. Sometimes, these trees fall down, right over the trail. You can see by my face that I’m a little dismayed at this particular tree, as the light wood at the base indicates that it fell recently (obviously, a little disconcerting when you plan to sleep in a flimsy tent beneath these timbers!). This wasn’t the only tree we happened upon, and I climbed over, under, or around many obstacles in our path.

Business is the same way, with a seemingly straight, easy-to-tread path, that often ends up being twisty, hard-to-see, or filled with obstacles. The real question is: how do you view the obstacles? Are obstacles a reason to stop the project entirely, or an issue that needs to be fixed to make the project better than before? I’ve run into my share of projects that use obstacles as a reason to keep the project from moving forward, instead of using them as an opportunity for improvement. Here’s how I’ve managed to overcome some of the obstacles:

Climb over. Sometimes, the trees in our path were clean, and the brush was over-grown around them. Thus, it made the most sense to just climb right over the tree to reach the path on the other side. I’ve found that sometimes it helps to get a little muscle behind your projects at work, and climb right over the obstacles. I’m not suggesting going over your boss’s head, but I am suggesting that you talk with a decision-maker if you’ve come to an impasse on a project. For example, when working on one company’s website, we had several key players at the same level who couldn’t agree. By involving a decision-maker one level up, we were able to come to an agreement and keep the project moving toward completion.

Go under it. Going under a tree branch with a large backpack requires some flexibility, and sometimes, work projects need a little flexibility as well. Don’t get so stuck on one idea or one strategy that you forget that there’s other ways to solve a problem. For example, I’ve had to be flexible in my approach to designing our CRM system at work. I use the system for a different purpose than our sales reps, customer service reps, and management, so I’ve had to re-work some fields and policies to accommodate the needs of the other members of the team. Had I stubbornly adhered to my own perspective on the system design, many of my team members would not be able to use it effectively.

Go around it. Sometimes, the tree was too big or too over-grown with brush to effectively climb over it or under it, and the same is true in the office. If you can’t overcome an obstacle by taking it up a level, or re-working a solution, it’s best to evaluate the project for value, and find an entirely new strategy to deal with the problem. Some obstacles indicate flaws in the foundation of a strategy or project design, so if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, you might need to go back to the drawing board. For example, I work on a lot of mock-ups for design projects at work, and sometimes I have to scrap entire concepts. It seems frustrating at first, but once the final project is settled, the results are much better than the original ideas.

Try not to take it personal if your ideas aren’t working, and view the obstacles for your ideas as a way to improve the project. With a little flexibility and muscle, you’ll be back to the path in no time!

One thought on “Dealing with Obstacles: Lessons from the Trail, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Payoffs, Pain and the Little Things: Lessons from the Trail, Part 3 » Consciously Corporate - When business is your life.

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