Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Vision Tree

In computer science there is a data structure called a tree.  It is hierarchical (meaning it has a top and bottom) and directed (the direction of the relationships matter).  It is composed of nodes (the data) and edges (a connection between two nodes).  Like this:
The most common type of tree is a binary tree where a given node has no more than three connected edges (one going up to a "parent" and up to two going down to "children").  There are also N-way trees which still have only one parent but can have N children.
Computer scientists can geek out (and have) about trees for decades but I'm not writing a technical post right now.  I was thinking about how the shape of turning vision into reality is a tree.  For example consider the current health care reform debate.
You start off with a "simple" statement like president Obama made in his address about health care:
No one should suffer financial ruin because of a health problem
It's a uniting statement, creates clarity, and outlines purpose of reform.  However, turning that statement into reality involves MANY little steps moving from "abstract" to "concrete" or "planning" to "execution" (for example "insurance reform" > "exchanges" > ...)
Vision works the same way in my company and I expect yours too.  However, as I thought about this I realized that this is how I feel:
I'm not typically involved at the highest level and I shouldn't participate at the lowest level (either I'm too busy or I'm not getting the most N out of my equation)  As I explored this concept more I was able to draw "paths" along the tree that I find satisfying and paths that frustrate me:
I can think of specific instances during the past 1.5 years where I was following "happy paths" and when I was following "unhappy paths".  The interesting thing about these paths is that the unhappy ones sit right in the middle.  I've labeled that the "Management Danger Zone" and realized it's just another expression of a(alpha) from my equation.  When I spend all of my time and effort in the MDZ my job stinks.

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