3 min read

Warm Take: When Things Fall Apart. March 29, 2020

This post originally went out via email to my supporting members, good folks who pay to receive my newsletter.

I was heading to the World Trade Center Borders bookstore the morning of September 11, 2001.

While evacuating my home later that day, I deliberately walked uptown past another local bookstore.  Both stubborn and in shock, bizarrely, I figured I’d be able to pick up the book I had been planning to buy.

A few days later, I went to stay with friends; before leaving the city, I successfully managed to buy When Things Fall Apart. (library) (Bookshop.org)

As is the nature of things, they have persistently fallen apart and back together many times since then.

Until recently, it had been a while since I’ve routinely “officed” from home.  I’ve worked between clients, hotels, my beloved workspace community, Orbital — and infrequently from my sofa at home.

After Orbital shut down last December, I bounced between my usual spots, coffee shops and libraries.  And my sofa.

Last week, my office was reduced to my sofa.  It wasn’t working.

So yesterday’s plan was to set up a little corner where I could work, do Zoom calls, and ideate.  Today’s plan was to send you this note from my new office nook.

Instead, I’m on the sofa.

After a torrential rainstorm on Friday night, I spent Saturday wet-vaccing water from a small but slightly below grade area on the lower level of my parents’ suburban home.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened.  The fix is onerous and requires professional help, which they had put off while testing a (now disproven) landscaping fix.

While the professionals are still open for business, and could arguably do the work, until it’s safe for my parents to move out of their house for a few days — not gonna happen.

When things fall apart, anything broken or unsustainable will be revealed.  If you needed a cut and color, new glasses, or to get to the gym more often — not gonna happen.

At work, things that weren’t working before still aren’t working; maybe they’re breaking.

I’ve been reading that some organizations have decided to forego performance reviews this year, and as a fan of performance reviews, I’ve got mixed feelings — mostly positive.

If your process is broken, it won’t work better when people are newly dispersed.  And potentially experiencing trauma and loss.

Now’s a good time to take stock.  You can use a few simple feedback questions (that a million people have probably blogged about):

  • What have we been doing well; what was working?
  • What have we been doing badly; what was not working?
  • What can we stop doing, or do less of?
  • What can we do more of?

Consider these questions.  Offer them up to your team.  Then you can use them to carve a path to a Present Normal.

I’m getting off the sofa.  It’s time to get my space organized.

But also, I’m remembering that it’s important to be fluid with plans.  Because a defining feature of a Present Normal is the changing nature of the present.

These Warm Takes are kind of conversational, informal posts — usually to share my reaction to something I read recently.  (But not this time.)

I aspire to send them out a couple of times a month, usually for you, my supporting members.  I’m delighted when you share them with friends and co-workers.

And usually while drinking my Sunday morning coffee.  So please forgive imprecise thoughts, typos and imperfections, which I sometimes fix later, on the web version.

NB:  it’s Sunday afternoon, and long past the time when I’m allowed to consume caffeinated beverages.

And as always, I love to hear from you.  Send me a note with your thoughts, suggestions, reactions or criticisms.

Thank you so much for supporting my newsletter.

May you and yours be safe, peaceful, and healthy.

Anne Libby


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