The Stairs

A schematic stairs pattern

The Stairs is a good metaphor to think about progression - specially with a human factor.

It could be about the way a team project is going at work, or the typical learning curve of mastering a new language. It can even be about one’s personal advancement toward a career goal.

It looks linear at first. We have a starting line and a goal. Isn’t the progression like the straight line between the two? Certainly not! Progression not being linear is the core of the parttern.

We alternate between moments of slow and quick progression. It’s like going up a stair where each step has a very long thread and a tall riser at the end.

A schematic stairs with two tiny persons. One is walking. One is climbing a step

There are moments where we’re walking peacefully on one step. We’re not making much visible progress but we’re still progressing towards the next step. We’re consolidating previous advancements, accumulating experience at a sustainable pace.

Then come momments where we find ourself climbing up to the next step rapidly, maybe helped by a jetpack. We then feel like we’ve made deep progress in a very short time. A fundamental concept just clicked. The team delivered a important component for the project. Personal and company goals finally compound. Something noticeable has been achieved.

Progression is a back-and-forth between these two very different moments.

Asking ourselves where we currently are on The Stairs is important. Are we “climbing a step”? Then dedicating a bit more energy into it could help us reach a new and valuable higher floor.

Are we on walking on the long thread of a step? Then let’s not push for it too much. We’re on a marathon, not a sprint. We should keep our energy for when the time comes to clib the riser to the next step.