Wednesday, August 22, 2012

There's a paradox in every paradigm

I had a passing conversation the other day about "To Do" lists -- a little light-hearted moment that was more about sharing some unsarcastic "you busy? me too. ain't-it-great?" banter over a cup of coffee. I quasi-joked that in my personal little universe, "To Do" could be differentiated into a range of categories related to taking some "action," but that most of the time, "do" wasn't, strictly speaking, the right word. The acquaintance I was talking with was immediately intrigued, and we chatted for another minute or so about how much consensus-building and deliberation my work stuff sometimes requires.

Thinking later about it for myself, I came up with the following little list that fleshes out the point, if a bit goofily. Maybe I should preface this by saying that I work in a field that requires me to be responsive to other peoples needs in the context of compliance with a set of civil rights statutes... collaboratively through a recursive, deliberative process utilizing case-by-case analysis... the standards governing which change radically with time and circumstance... all of which entails handling highly confidential records and communications. The abridged explanation I usually give is that "we live in the grays -- there's almost NOTHING black and white about what we do except that it must be done."

"To Do," expanded becomes:

- To Do (the next step is clear and actionable, and I can "do" or delegate immediately)

- To Resolve (meaning the hows are going to have to be developed on the fly)

- To Staff (I need guidance from my collaborators or leadership; or I need to share guidance with my team)

- To Respond (something needs acknowledgment or feedback)

- To Document (what's happened has happened and the "paper" trail needs to reflect that fact accurately)

- To Mediate (there's no way forward but to talk/"hug" it out)

- Pending Research (something's new, something's changed, something's odd, or there's some unusual combination of issues that needs analysis in context; "uh... let me get back to you on that")

- Pending the Second Coming (uh... yeah, it's coming, but maybe not anytime soon)

- ELMO (Enough Let's Move On, usually reserved for "we'll get to that, but not now"; sometimes it's "file under someday/never, legally untenable or politically too thorny")

All that stuff that was not lost on me
Teach myself to see each of us
Through the lens of forgiveness
Like we're stuck with each other (God forbid!)
Teach myself to smile and stop and talk
To a whole other color kid
Teach myself to be new in an instant
Like the truth is accessible at any time
Teach myself it's never really one or the other
There's a paradox in every paradigm

- Ani DiFranco "Paradigm," Knuckle Down (2005)