So this post is not about the William Carlos Williams' poem The Red Wheelbarrow.  Neither is it about a whole bunch of depends diapers.

Rather it's about this interesting phenomenon I have experienced sometimes, in my day job as a techie.  Sometimes, you get stuck in the details of a technical problem, stuck so deep inside what you think you need, that you overlook really simple ways around that very problem.

The very best example of this I know is a story from an old colleague of mine, which I call The Wheelbarrow Story.  

This old colleague of mine, we'll call him Jeff (because that's actually his name), was consulting to a large company.  The company headquarters, which was somewhere in the midwest, oversaw the operations of about a dozen different divisions around the country.  Twice a month, all the different division heads got together in a conference room, and went over the budget, spending, income, all sorts of facts and figures using this enormous report that was, according to Jeff, a solid ream of paper for each of the division heads individual reports.

Seriously.  That's bonkers.

The company was spending a lot of money to print this roughly 24-ream monster each month for the two meetings.  They hired Jeff to come in and figure out a way to slim down the report.

So they flew Jeff in, put him up in a nice hotel, and he got to work.  He interviewed each of the division heads.  He had a good long look at the various database and accounting packages used to build the reports.  He looked back at about three months worth of these reports looking for ways to trim it down.

After a week of research, he called for a meeting with all the division heads.  He also borrowed a wheelbarrow (really!) from the HQ's landscaping department.  Prior to the meeting he went around to each of the offices, and collected each of their ream-sized reports from the prior quarter.  Then he wheeled the wheelbarrow into the conference room, and set it down.  

"This wheelbarrow contains all the copies of the report from the last quarter," Jeff announced.  "A show of hands, please.  How many of you have read these documents?"

Not a single hand went up.  

"Stop printing this report," he told them.  They did.  They also paid him several thousand dollars for his time.

I love that story.

I had my own wheelbarrow moment today.  I've spent the past three days trying to do $_complicated_technical_web_thing and make it work.  What exactly it is doesn't matter.  Early this morning I decided, "Screw this.  How about instead I solve the problem $_different_way?" I started coding it, and showed it to my client about halfway through the day.  They loved it!  I'm about 90% done with my new solution too, and on track to finish it tomorrow.

Sometimes you gotta just throw out the wheelbarrow of reports.  I'm grateful I know this, even though I forget it sometimes.

AuthorMako Allen
Categories365 Gratitude