Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stand Slow

As the title of this blog shows, I'm a big R.E.M. fan.  They're great performers, and I've always loved their lyrics.  Thinking about what it means to me to slow down, the lyrics to "Stand" seemed appropriate.
Stand in the place where you live
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before
Now stand in the place where you work
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven't before

If you are confused check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

If wishes were trees the trees would be falling
Listen to reason
Season is calling

Stand in the place where you are
Stand in the place where you are
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around, so stand.
I want to highlight a few of the lyrics in the context of what it takes to do effective technical analysis and design activities.

"Stand in the place where you live"
Start the work at hand by examining it from an internal perspective.  Look at the data, process, or system from the context of someone who really knows it well.  Learn from them some of the intricacies of how it's put together and how it behaves.  These are the people who really live with the system day in and day out.

"Stand in the place where you work.
Think about the place where you live."
Now look a the data, process, or system from the perspective of someone who is a user or consumer of it.  Get their perspective on how things look from the outside of day-to-day life of supporting and maintaining the thing being analyzed.  The important this is to get outside of your own skin and try to look at things from alternate perspectives.

"If you are confused, check with the sun.
Carry a compass to help you along."
Remember that the title of this song (and every third word) is "stand."  We need a vision and guiding principles in order to know that, as we dig deeper and deeper into the weeds of a project, we don't lose sight of what the driving purpose is.  Remember, when you get down into the weeds, it may seem easier to follow the goat path that someone else already pushed down rather than following the sun (vision) and your compass (guiding principles).

"Listen to reason; reason is calling."
As Jim Harris (ocdqblog) reminded us at the beginning of the year with, "Shut Your Mouth," there's high value to be found in learning to listen.  It can be difficult to know how long to listen before starting to draw conclusions and respond.  It's good advice to to listen even more closely as things seem to sound ridiculous.  For example, I was in a conversation once that described how a payroll process worked.  I was flabbergast by the amount of special logic that went into the business process.  It seemed ridiculous.  Then, I listened harder and further into the conversation (and asked some open-ended questions) to really understand.  As I understood more and more about what I thought was a ridiculously complex process;,

"Your head is there to move you around."
Key emphasis on head.  You should make decisions based on the thoughts in your head, not on your gut feels running around in circles.

Thanks to Stipe and company for the song!


  1. I am also a big R.E.M. fan – Green is a great album!

    Great use of the song “Stand” and its lyrics to make excellent points about slow.

    Shifting your perspective is essential – all too often we become enamored with the way we see the world – and annoyed that others don’t see it the same way.

    Sadly, “Stand” wasn’t available for free play, but here is a link to another one of my all-time favorites somewhat relevant to your core points:


    “Take your instinct by the reins
    Your better best to rearrange
    What we want and what we need
    Has been confused, been confused.”

  2. I've never been one to really study lyrics and artists. I just latch on to a few things here and there. Seems like R.E.M. might be a Scott Adams of alternative rock music.

    Making poignant statements about the business world though non-business media.