I’m not a sailor.
I have sailed and I know where to look when a shipmate hollers, “Avast me hearties, raise the Jolly Roger, Spanish galleon to port!”
…but, despite the title, I am not a sailor. Sailing is instead a good metaphor for the work we do.
I do like a good metaphor, especially when it’s one that shows me something I didn’t see before, or one that I can use to my advantage. So the sailing metaphors we use to describe our projects interest me.
This project is becalmed.
We’re all at sea on this one.
Better batten down the hatches.
They left us high and dry on this.
We’re sailing close to the wind.
There’s quite a few more.
There’s two opposite windy phrases, we’re facing some headwinds on this, & this one’s a breeze heading downwind.
The thing is, when sailing downwind all you can ever do is sail as fast as the wind. It is, however, possible to sail faster than the wind. Bear with me, I’m not a sailor. In order to achieve the fastest sailing speed, the direction a yacht should sail relative to the wind, is a close reach. The interesting thing here is that you sail virtually into the wind in order to achieve the highest speeds, aiming at around 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock (with the wind coming from 12 o’clock). It’s physics — vectors.
So my question is, when facing those winds on our projects shouldn’t we all be aiming for a close reach? How might we be able to use the winds to our advantage to move us faster? What possibilities do these winds present? Sometimes the winds might be the constraints on your project, how might you reframe those constraints to help you to move faster? Maybe the winds are limited budget, how might that allow you to be more agile instead, make faster and more meaningful decisions? In other words, how might you close reach?
I’m not suggesting we don’t head for any port in a storm when necessary, but when the winds buffet our projects, how might we instead think about sailing faster, using those winds to our advantage?