“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”— Mark Twain

Last night, it snowed about 7 inches. The snow was not a surprise, and we were prepared. I was out at daybreak, clearing pathways for all to enjoy.

I have always appreciated the Mark Twain quote noted above, but the sentiment always seems incomplete. You see, in my mind, worrying is just the first step. The next step is to consider whether this is a worry you should do something about. You should ask, “How likely is this worry to become a reality?” If it has some reasonable chance of coming true, you should ask, “How much of an impact will this worry have if it comes true?” With those answers, we can decide if and how to act.

In Ithaca, in the winter, it is going to snow. We don’t know when or how much, but it will. So we don’t worry about it, we prepare.

Exceptional leaders are the same as anyone else. They do worry about lots of things they needn’t. The difference is that exceptional leaders always ask questions and listen to the answers. They prepare to face their worries based on how likely it is that those things will occur.

I have a quality challenge for the leaders of significant projects.

Are you worried about quality issues coming up? If not, what is the “weather history” you have that shows that they are unlikely to happen? I don’t expect people in Miami, Florida, to have snow shovels. Have the projects you have led been like Miami with no snow?

The good news about risks to quality is that there is a big difference between quality issues and snowstorms. I don’t know how to prevent snowstorms, but I know how to prevent quality problems. If you want to know more about that, let’s talk!

It is good to keep those pathways clear of icy spots.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Alan Willett, while looking out my window this morning.

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