Ben Holliday

Sinking sand

Where is it you get stuck? And how do you get unstuck?

I’ve been writing recently about getting unstuck or finding different perspectives in the work you’re doing.

One of the points I was making about as-is work for service design is that it’s easy to get stuck in the detail of existing business processes and constraints.

Not too far from where I live is Morecambe Bay. A familiar family walk for us is somewhere like Arnside or Grange at opposite sides of the ‘sands’ in the Bay.

If you look up Morecambe Bay you’ll see the history that for hundreds of years people have walked the sands with officially guides, but the fast flowing tides, ever changing channels and sinking sand means that it’s an extremely dangerous place.

The places we walk have lifeboat stations, signs and even warning sirens telling people about the dangers and to keep off the sands. But despite all of this, every year many people have to be rescued from the sands.

On a good day it can look like a beach. It’s inviting, and looks easy to navigate. The ground looks solid from a distance, but it’s deadly if you start to set foot in the wrong places.

Sinking sand means that our seemingly solid ground gives way and then we’re stuck.

How often is it that we’re not able to see where we’ll get stuck in our work? What’s your sinking sand?

The work we’re doing seems wide open. The ground we plan to walk on can look solid enough from a distance. But then we can easily get pulled in. Detail and complexity can overwhelm us, slow us down, or doesn’t lead to any meaningful progress.

The goal always has to be staying unstuck. A good as-is process gets you unstuck and, just as importantly, can keep you from getting stuck.

Arnside - Morecambe Bay 'sands'
Arnside, September 2020

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.