How often have you been in the situation where someone near to you is excited about a project. They are enthusiastic and productive in their project, working hard and happy to do so. They are in Flow. But there is a problem.
You think it’s the wrong project.
This is a dilemma indeed. What can you do? They are happy and productive. Is what they are doing useful but not strategic or the highest priority? Or is it counter-productive and actually harmful?
More often than not, the project they are working on is the former. If it is the latter, then it I believe it is OK to stop the person in their tracks and explain how the project could harm the overall system. For instance, if I was excited about pulling out weeds in the yard and Katie said, “No! Those aren’t weeds! Those are my plants!”. It makes sense, then, to stop the project, even if I was happy doing it.
However, when the project is just the regular “sub-optimal” kind, that is productive, but not as strategic as something else, I would tread very carefully. By pulling a person out of flow and forcing them to work in some other fashion or on some other project, you are diminishing their capacity for enthusiasm. You are making them feel like brain-dead zombies.
Often, we don’t even realize this is happening. We think we are being smart by putting the person on the optimal track, but in reality, we are just micro-managing them. I think it’s important to set priorities, but it’s also important to avoid stomping on people’s enthusiasm. It makes them less productive in the long-run and also less receptive to guidance in the future.
Think of the last time you were enthusiastic about a project. Did someone come along and mess up your mojo? What did they do? Have you done that to someone else?