It ain’t over ’til it’s over

I was writing the other day about the necessity to be diligent and attentive to details, which brought to my mind this situation… You may remember how last winter we were working on that alignment of large London plane trees?

They were big beasties, with long ascents and posing interesting work-positioning challenges. At the beginning of such a project I find myself a bit tense, wondering whether I have priced sufficient time in to get the job done. For this concrete project, the weather at the beginning was pretty atrocious, wet and blustery, with ice on the trees in the morning. Yuck. But we stuck it out and worked our way through the alignment, everything working out just fine in the end.

On one of the last trees we had a freelance arborist join us for a day, as we were a bit short-staffed.

After an uneventful day, we had just finished the last tree for that day and were busy packing up. Round the other side of the tree, X was busy pulling down the access line, packing it away into its bag, when all of a sudden, I heard a rather ominous uh-ohh.

It transpired that he was so focused on stuffing the line into the bag that he had overlooked the fact that the last ten meters or so of the line were tangled up into a huge rope ball, and that this ball was now dangling a good ten meters off the ground.


Sooooo, we break the cubes and throwlines out of the vehicle again and start trying to snag the rope ball to pull it down, which, after a bit of fiddling around, we managed to do.

Whilst in and of itself this story is very undramatic, it does illustrate what happens when your focus narrows down, for whatever reasons, and you miss stuff going on around you. In this case, I would suggest that mentally X was already into job-done-mode, goal achieved (this being a further variation on the theme of target fixation). When in actual fact we were not quit done yet, missing the tangled rope meant we had to do another lap before finishing up. To my mind this demonstrates the importance of holding focus and attention right up until the very last step of a job.

Truly, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.