The Wobble State of Mind: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Customer: “Are we going to finish on time?I am not seeing a lot of progress, but I am still paying the same amount every week.”

Contractor: “Yes, we will finish on time. You don’t see a lot, but a lot of work is going into creating the base for the rest of work. If we don’t get all of this right, you will notice it later. Customers get this way about this time in the project, it is the wobbly state.”

Introducing the wobbly state of mind.  To get anything implemented, it takes a lot of work before you see anything. In that period of time where nothing appears to be happening, the mind goes into the wobbly state. In the workplace,  there is always a point where an executive wants status on the progress and we’re left to make charts that are supposed to show progress, yet it seems there is nothing notable to report. Then the madness starts. We try to tell a good story by deflecting to other topics when the truth is, we’re trying to assuage the wobbly state of mind.

A new city center under construction across from Peet’s coffee, a weekly meeting spot after yoga. After 18 months, we finally see a structure emerging. From our vantage point, watching from week to week, we’ve only seen three things happen. The buildings were torn down. The rubble was hauled away. That as in the first three months. Over the next couple of months, a big hole was dug in the ground. The view from Peet’s made us think, the project had stalled, something must be wrong. I’d google occasionally curious to if the project was continuing. What was really going on was building a foundation. That foundation has to be right or everything else will fall apart. The foundation takes careful work and preparation. As observers and city residents, we were in the wobbly state of mind.

Yes, you can do something in a hurry but have you built a solid base? Is the system you create stable? The angst from fear, uncertainty and doubt force

  • the conceptual requirements to become messy use cases,
  • the test phase to become a frustrating  pilot,
  • and implementation becomes an inevitable disaster.

Wobbly is a state of mind; it does not describe the product or an anticipated outcome. Some things cannot be short cut; let people know there is that period when it appears nothing is happening. Like baking, just because everything is all mixed, you aren’t finished, you’ve still got a couple of hours until completion. Proofing, editing, reviewing your work time are all examples of what ca appear as nothing is happening can cause others to go into the wobbly state of mind. We’ve all experienced of someone saying, send me what you have and then getting back numerous points of criticism. Yet, this is exactly what you were in the midst of checking, correcting and finalizing.   (Note, this is different from collaboration, this is just someone who wants “to see.”) Worse is someone making a decision off of bad data or deploying a prototype into production.

Prepare your customer at the start for the wobbly state of mind; the time when it will appear to little progress. When customers reach the wobbly state of mind, remind them that you described this at the start and assure them by telling them the background work going on and why. Sure, you can rush things to “show progress.” Unfortunately, it is progress towards disaster. In life, when you enter the wobbly state of mind, remember it is not just a before and after, there is a during. There is that work in middle to get to where you want to be. The wobble state of mind may cause you to momentarily hesitant, just know you’re going to find the balance and reach your destination.



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