Choluteca Bridge

2020 Metaphor Alert – The Choluteca Bridge to Nowhere.

Thanks to a mention in a recent newsletter from Manager Tools, I found this story about the Choluteca bridge in Honduras, and even though this happened in 1998, it felt like a 2020 thing, right?

The designers of the new Choluteca Bridge tried their best to build a state-of-the-art structure that withstood a category 5 storm with minimal damage. But they could never anticipate that the hurricane would make the river flow through a new channel moving away from beneath the bridge. 

They 100% accomplished their goal. They built a bridge that survived Hurricane Mitch, a Category 5 storm that ravished Central America, bringing unimaginable destruction, and death, to the area. All of that, and yet the bridge had only some minor damage. But, after all the flood waters finally receded, there was a bit of a problem. The river had moved, and the bridge no longer carried anyone over the water. Twelve years later, it just sits there, looking oddly out of place, and fairly dystopian.

I found it to be a pretty good metaphor for 2020 though, even if it didn’t happen this year, because I think a lot of people are waiting for the river to go back under our “bridges”, because we know our bridges, we’re comfortable with our bridges, and we built them for a reason.

Let me give you an example, we built these great big offices, with great big, open, spaces, for our teams to work in, and collaborate, and for the last 5-6 months, they’ve mostly sat empty. Does that mean the work stopped? No, for the most part, for many knowledge workers, the work is still getting done. There have been some fits and starts as people got adjusted to working differently, but it’s gotten done. That river kept flowing, it was just flowing outside of that great, big, office building.

It turns out that “work” isn’t the building. “Work” is the product of your people’s efforts, regardless of where they put those efforts in.

Also, a whole lot of people are deciding that they like getting work done somewhere that isn’t the great, big, office. That they enjoy not having a commute, seeing their kids during breaks, not dressing for the office every day. Others, enjoy dressing the part, but also like being able to work from different locations, in a workspace they designed themselves, and still others really like being in an office space, because their home isn’t really a comfortable place to work, but like the idea that they can occasionally work outside of the office.

Yet, while there have been some public exceptions, what I see sort of flying under the radar are organizations and managers trying to figure out how to put that river back under the bridge, by getting everyone back into the office. I’ve even seen some, not many, openly admit that the company has been pretty successful while working remotely, and acknowledge that they know employees like it, but that’s just not how they want to run their business.

I mean, OK, but like the river is over there. There’s a huge workforce, and a ton of talent, that doesn’t live where your office is, and doesn’t want to live where your office is, and doesn’t want to sit in your great, big, office all day. They’ve moved into the channel where the river is, and don’t need your bridge anymore.

For others, maybe the river of technology change has moved on you, or you’ve built a great business based on a social media platform, that decided to make changes. The point is, there will always be things that we can’t control, and some of them will alter the direction we have to go with our work. You can adapt to that, or you can be the bridge sitting and wasting away serving no one.

Check out the whole article though, Theo provides a number of good lessons based on our strong, lovely, bridge.

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