I’m a real movie fan and I happened to catch one of my favorites again recently and even though it may seem like an unlikely source for work-related inspiration, I was struck by how applicable it is to what goes on every day in technology organizations.
Most everyone has probably seen (or heard about) “Groundhog Day” – a very funny comedy about an egocentric weatherman named Phil Connors who finds himself reliving February 2nd over and over again in folksy Punxsutawney, PA. Phil’s initial reaction to his situation is one of confusion and disbelief, followed by self-indulgence and then despair. Ultimately, he finds that a devotion to self-improvement and personal fulfillment is the way to make his odd existence valuable and meaningful.
The plot device of perpetually reliving the same day crystallizes for me how some organizations are cursed or even content to repeat the same bad days over and over again because they address only the symptoms of chronic issues. They choose the path that Phil Connors took in the first half of Groundhog Day. Phil’s journey, however, teaches us how attitude and incremental improvements can really add up over time. When we focus every day on getting a little better, we don’t necessarily see the progress as it happens but at some point along the way we can look back and see how far we’ve come. I see this type of progress all the time within successful organizations.
The best technology shops, and not coincidentally, some of the ones I’ve seen with the highest employee morale, are fully committed to continuous improvement at all levels. They share quality goals cross-functionally, emphasize problem management as a critical discipline and celebrate those that reveal issues and disdain any efforts to conceal them. Every day, small incremental improvements are made that eventually add up to great leaps. They understand that every great journey begins with a single step.
I encourage all of the technology organizations I work with to focus on improvements that matter to the majority of their customers.
In popular culture, the expression “Groundhog Day” has come to have two meanings: 1) reliving the same bad experience repeatedly or 2) making each day a step towards realizing your full potential. For us as technology professionals, it must be the latter. Like Phil Connors learned, the former just isn’t any fun.