Down Dog, Reflections on Barks in a World of Bytes

Ace in Action

Ace does not like me. This is a fact. Ace is a dog and every time he sees me, a barking frenzy ensues. He is not afraid of me. His tail is wagging, but his demeanor is more, let me get off the leash and see watch what happens. Ace has spoken barked.  Someone mentioned to me, what if people were more like dogs? There is an honesty about dogs. Dogs don’t lie to you,dogs hang their heads in shame when they have done something wrong. You know when they like you and when they don’t. My immediate thought,  It’d be great not to have to try to figure people out.

I work virtually, with limited time on the phone and emails,  there are challenges.  I wonder, how engaged are people in a project, is there support for change, is there enthusiasm for innovation? The worldwide virtual environment is  in its infancy;  there isn’t a strong organizational culture around how things work.The trouble is, we act like there is. While one team adheres to strict plans and schedules with check points, other teams feel this is just a suggestion. Frustration and mayhem ensue.

Imagine two groups of dogs are playing . One group is trained to heel and sit and the other is taught to sit. If you say heel, half of them will obey and the other half will keep playing. This is only a problem if the expectation is all dogs would heel. At that moment, telling the playing dogs what “heel” means is not going to change help.¹ Agreed to behaviors, definitions and goals are the way forward for projects. Yet, often, little attention is given to this and we end up with “they” are behind schedule versus “they” have set unrealistic dates.  There may be a year long effort kicking off and time isn’t spent up front understanding work style preferences. Little time is spent on discussion and agreements on goals. Projects have more of an “assumptive” launch. Everyone “assumes” they know what things means and how it is expected things will go. Consider dedicating a little more time up front. Look, if everyone is in agreement, it’s short meeting. If not, it’s time well spent.

I should not say, Ace doesn’t like me. Ace barks in my presence. He could be a wonder dog who barks to indicate disease, mental anxiety,maybe I’ve disrupted his puppy world, or you know, he just doesn’t like me. We don’t know and can’t know because we can’t have a conversation with Ace the dog. But with teams and people, we have the gift of words. You can ask. So instead of wondering why something is not what you expected, ask. Yes, there is a chance you may not get a workable answer, but there is a good chance you can. That’s a lot easier than the mystery of the barking dog.



¹This example is for illustrative purposes only and by no means insinuates people must be trained as animals. 

² The yoga pose in the featured image is commonly called down dog.


  1. You are very right in that clear expectations make all the difference with projects as with animals. As I have posted on my pet blog,, animals only respond when you have trained them to a clear command. If you say ‘sit’ they have no idea what you mean. You must define ‘sit’ and reward ‘sit’ and then you get ‘sit.’ It takes 28 days to train any command reliably. And it is not very different with a project. A good charter and communication plan, where you define the goals and syntax of the project, goes a very long way to the team understanding what they are expected to deliver. Agreement to a task in Chicago may mean, deliver on the day on the schedule, while in Hyderabad it may mean 3 days plus or minus. Thanks for the post – obviously I love the analogy. #digitalattitude

    Liked by 1 person

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