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Don’t Wiggle Out of the Squiggle

Yeah, you heard right. Don’t wiggle out of the squiggle. According to Leith Sharp (director of Harvard’s Sustainability Leadership), squiggle is all of the variation that happens in the “in-between” phases of any project. Apparently, it’s the new jargon for the “messy middle.”  New ideas and new projects all have their own set of “issues” – stakeholders, risks, opportunities, budget, history, context, etc.  With these issues onboard, the journey is rarely if ever linear. The journey is most often up, down, and all around and sideways. Yet, the final story we share is the linear story. Leith Sharp and others want you to embrace the squiggle and share all parts of your story. Let’s be real, and don’t hide the messy middle.

Just last year while teaching a project management bootcamp, I encouraged team members to be aware of what’s known as the implementation dip. As soon as you get going, there will be a dip in productivity. Beware! Don’t let that dip take you by surprise.

But I failed to tell them that, in all honesty, this process looks more like a roller coaster ride than a single dip. They needed to beware of 250 dips and squiggles that are somewhere in the middle! Did I warn them of that? Heck, no! I just showed one dip on the implementation journey and then moved on to how to sustain momentum. Shame on me.

If you know it’s coming, you won’t wiggle out of the squiggle. Keep going. Keep learning. Keep making adjustments. It’s part of the real-life project life cycle. Embrace the ride. And one more piece of advice.  Let’s talk to our newest team members (Gen Z) and let them know to expect this. There are going to be a lot of mistakes, concerns, and questions along the way. Those can make your newest team members really uncomfortable. Build trust on your team and welcome this! We do not wiggle out of the squiggle.  We are going to embrace it and move forward.  Let’s all be more comfortable and willing to share our real – squiggly – journey so others can learn along the way.

Stay sharp, 

Holly Hayes, President & Founder
ISI Consulting