Everyday Kanban

Discussing Management, Teams, Agile, Lean, Kanban & more

Comfort and Safety are not the same thing

balancing stones

Comfort. Safety. We get these two confused. Did you ever know something but it took someone saying the concept out loud for you to take notice of it and think about it? This week, Gitte Klitgaard made me realize how often we conflate comfort and safety. You can be comfortable overeating, but that’s not safe. You can be comfortable doing way too much work or using yelling as your primary means of communication, but neither are safe. They just feel safe because that’s what we are used to doing. Making “safety nets” more visible is a sustainable way to help people embrace necessary change – change that moves us towards safety.

I held a hybrid lecture/discussion session just before Gitte’s. My discussion was on why and how to pursue lagom – a Swedish term for “not too little, not too much, just enough.” The topic is a fascinating glimpse into the world of intended vs. unintended consequences, or systems thinking.

Yes or No. Right or Wrong. All or None. Stupid or Smart. We tend to think in binaries because it simplifies the world. Yet, most “safe” choices are on the spectrum somewhere between extremes. As I’ve noted, our safe choices are not always the ones we are comfortable with.

The example I use a lot recently is “Should you focus on failure prevention or failure recovery?” The answer is “Yes!” despite pressure from your management to avoid any and all unplanned downtime. If you only focus on failure prevention, you’ll take too long to recover from the inevitable failure. But, if you don’t ever focus on prevention then you’re being irresponsible.

The next question is what balance to strike between the two extremes. To decide, first anticipate the positive and negative consequences of various points on that spectrum. The range on the spectrum with the best combination of positive and negative consequences is our lagom. Now we can determine signals that show if we need to adjust our actions to get closer to lagom, or if we should hold steady.

I’m just starting to research, speak, and write on this topic. If you use this decision-making model in real life, please share your story with me. If you want to but want help, contact me.  If you have thoughts, stories, reading suggestions, or other pertinent information to share, comment below or use the contact me page in the navbar.

1 Comment

  1. The exotic rice hack targets the frozen fat, making it a liquid, useful form for energy conversion.

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