On Drawing the Line

Morality, like art, means drawing a line some place.

Oscar Wilde

Sitting around the conference table this morning, I looked at the newbies on the team. One was wearing a mask, so that he could be assured that he was as careful as possible in preventing being infected. He and his girlfriend, a medical professional, were practicing self distancing. They’d come up with this plan to “quarantine” for the next 2 weeks and if both healthy, they could meet. The other was a fresh faced girl who was a bit apologetic because her first training week had seen a few errors, but considering she was coming up to speed under the most stressful of conditions, she had nothing to feel poorly about. To my left was my trusted colleague who had been with me since the beginning of this project, and to my right and front the next two senior members of the team. Waiting.

The past week has been like the few weeks prior: filled with drive to push through the challenges, the stress of not moving fast enough, and the pressure to get it right, the first time. As my colleague loves to say, this wasn’t our first rodeo performing under these constraints. And normally, we thrive. But add on top of that the responsibility of the newbies, who honestly don’t know what they’re getting into, and the knowledge that the peak wave is coming soon, and things were cracking at the seams. I’d had several frank discussions with my boss over the last several days, the latest on Easter Sunday, because that’s my job. Assess the team. Support their needs. Give them the tools to succeed. And work side by side to make it all happen. But work is work, and no matter how important the mission, the most important thing is the welfare of my colleagues, the incredibly talented people whom I’m lucky to share the ride with these past few months, years, and hopefully beyond. All of my instincts were yelling “stop.” On a physical, emotional, and mental level, the risk versus gain was too much. The stakes too high. Hurdling towards a highly probable conclusion that none of us wanted to see.

So while the wave rolls through, dragging some out to sea, we will be anchored in our homes very soon. Modifying our course to shelter in a safe harbor for a short duration. Moving forward behind the scenes until the water recedes and we can safely dock back on dry land. And when that happens, we will rapidly accelerate the program to get things finished, because that’s what we do. Bring it on.

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