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Winning at Working: Two-Sided Answers
by Nan Russell

The room was lovely, the bed inviting, the architecture interesting, and the philosophy appealing. That was my impression as we checked into a newly minted green-hotel in a resort town where we were eager to spend time relaxing.

But when we checked out, lovely wasn't on my mind. Protective glass on the combined soaking tub/shower looked terrific, but giving a child a bath was impossible; oversized ultra-modern faucets made face-washing without watering the floor an Olympic challenge; and shin-high pointy edges on a platform bed covered by a flowing duvet made room navigation perilous. There were numerous functional issues.

I'm sure the architectural firm that designed the hotel and the management team who signed off believed the room was great. It certainly looked that way. But spend one night there and anyone would know this reality: style was battling practicality.

Unfortunately, my hotel experience mimics many work experiences. A completed project, a renovated customer website, a new training program, an innovative product, or software enhancements are heralded as wonderful improvements. On the surface they appear as terrific as their champions proclaim.

Yet for those responsible for running the endeavor, training the new program, taking the customer complaint calls, debugging the software, or figuring out solutions to problems, that's not the perspective. Frustration mounts and blame is assigned.

We blame the architect, software developer, or project creator. We blame those responsible for not involving us, not understanding the audience, or not understanding the needs. We blame them for inferior results.

But here's the thing: most creators and designers and project leaders seek input. They ask for, cajole, encourage and request when project ideas are being developed and plans enhanced. But people say they're too busy to complete a survey or provide input. They want to help but don't have the time, assuming others will review the information carefully or provide end-user perspectives. Few do.

Having led numerous initiatives, managed hundreds of projects, and initiated scores of input and feedback sessions, I know first-hand there are but a handful who make time to provide the requested feedback. Communications are overlooked and meetings unattended. But when the buildings gets built, the projects get finished, or the software gets rolled out, people complain about problems and offer what should have been done.

Most of us ignore what people who are winning at working understand: superior products, services, structures, processes and companies require two-sided approaches. Great style and great function need both designer and user.

When people who are winning at working are asked for their input, they do the homework, review the specs, and analyze the prototype. They offer thoughtful suggestions, targeted perspectives, and valuable feedback, even if they don't have time or it's not their project.

People who are winning at working believe the responsibility for making and implementing the best products, services, or programs is always two-sided. No one needs to tell them that they share in that accountability since winning philosophies dictate their actions.

Want to be winning at working? Be part of those two-sided answers where you work.

(c) 2009 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell may be contacted at
Award winning author of Hitting Your Stride (Capital Books; 2008). Radio host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at; follow on twitter @nan_russell



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