Is that a fire hydrant or a really odd garden gnome?

German garden gnome

German garden gnome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After staring at my computer screen for hours, I decided to go for a walk at lunch as a way to recharge.  There is a secluded nature park within a short walk that can be reached by passing through the adjacent residential area. It’s not particularly impressive, but it at least gives me a destination to go to when I need some fresh air.

It had been a partially cloudy day which had allowed me to walk at a rather brisk pace without worrying that I would stink up my office upon my return. At least it had been at the beginning of my walk. As I began the final stretch, the clouds parted and the sun beat down upon the payment. We’ve had an unusually wet summer this year and the ground was full of pent up moisture. Within an instant the humidity skyrocketed and I found myself wishing that I had gills.

Luckily trees with low hanging limbs draped the sidewalk ahead and I eagerly darted under their cover. I stood there for a moment to enjoy the last bit of shadow as the rest of my route was in full sun. To my left stood a fire hydrant.

Its paint was faded and it had a layer of mold and bird droppings that helped to blend it into the surrounding landscape. It certainly did not command a high degree of visibility from the street. There have been ceramic garden gnomes which have caught my eye quicker. I found myself wondering how often it was maintained. I wondered what would happen if there was a nearby fire. Would the firefighters even know it was there? I imagined the damage that could be avoided if only someone would do a better job of trimming those trees or applying a new coat of paint to that hydrant.

Most fires don’t put themselves out before they have reduced everything around them to cinders. It doesn’t matter if the fire is a physical one or the more metaphoric variety. However it isn’t enough to provide the tools to combat them, you have to make sure everyone knows they are there, and then remind them over and over again.

At my work, I am the documentation queen. I’ve written several hundred pages of memos, policies, and procedures. I placed these documents on the company network for all employees to share. I believed I had given the entire company a great reference tool. However it seemed that the moment someone encountered some situation they weren’t entirely sure of they would either panic or do nothing.  Senior management would get frustrated. Why are we repeating the same mistakes? Customers would get frustrated. Why were we making their lives so difficult? I grew frustrated. What was the point of all those hours spent refining those policies or putting them to paper if no one was going to read them?

Book promoters will tell you often that you can write the greatest story ever, but no one will read it if they don’t know it exists. This saying is true for so many things beyond the publishing world. It wasn’t that my co-workers were lazy. They just hadn’t needed to use the reference guide in a long time. They hadn’t been involved in its creation and had no reason to remember the contents of every single page.  I’ve since learned that the average adult has to hear something more than six times before it embeds itself into active memory. Six times! I couldn’t fault my colleagues for not retaining information I had only mentioned once or twice. My co-workers simply didn’t know what they didn’t know.

So now unless I want to have the written equivalent of a garden gnome I must trim back those trees, apply a new coat of paint, and repeat, repeat, repeat, or in marketing terms, promote, promote, promote.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Is that a fire hydrant or a really odd garden gnome?

  1. Six times??? I thought that repeating/reminding more than twice would seem annoying. But maybe they really didn’t remember? Just what I needed to hear (-:

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s