I had a good old-fashioned whinge today.
Bizarrely it was about templates or more strictly the lack of them.
A document I had prepared got scrunched when transferred from Google Docs to Word because the system I was using wouldn’t let me use the obvious PDF route. All the tidy layout, fonts, headers and footers went haywire. What I needed was a neat template with a standardised look and feel that despite bucket loads of resources the organisation had not provided.
After decades of trying to make things look good on the smell of an oily rag, this imposed dagginess just pushed my buttons. I got loud and went a little red in the face as my complaints bounced wildly around the room.
I mean it doesn’t take much to get a consistent internal look and feel.
These days you can get an Airtasker to do it in a jiffy. Large organisations with their own Comms units just have no excuse.
Not a happy camper.
Calmer now, my curiosity asks why?
What is it about tidiness and a neat layout that is so important?
Well, the obvious answer is that I like documents to be very different to the inside of my car. I want them to be neat, professional, elegant even. Achieving this is much easier with a template.
A good template makes for consistency of message and that makes perfect sense.
I certainly don’t like the optics of viewers seeing a scrappy document and assuming the author can’t even find their way around a simple Word layout.
But this whinge is a sign of deeper trauma.
Ever since I was out of diapers I have strived to high standards in order to fit in, to be liked and accepted.
This need stems from a weird upbringing where I felt like an alien among the local inhabitants. It can happen when you are raised in the church, the Salvation Army in my case.
Achieving accepted practice in the real world was a way of making sure that I wasn’t tainted by all the religious weirdness. A template and a consistent look and feel suggest professionalism.
I like the skill, good judgment, and polite behaviour that is expected of a professional. I knew that if I had these things then it would be much harder for the real world to reject me.
I did say it was deep.
And I was right. I learnt how to be skilled in fitting into real-world situations by learning quickly what it took to do well. It didn’t matter if it was cricket, soccer, or undergrad assignments, I went for it with passion after first finding out what the standards and code of conduct looked like.
This was handy of course. The qualities of professionalism bode well in modern society no matter your background or motivation. What was different for me was that its absence became a trigger.
Somehow I assumed that everyone would be just as motivated as I was to do the job well.
When they are not or just display an amateurish approach I get annoyed. No suffering of fools.
My early career was in the academic world where accepted practice dominates the discourse, sets the hoops, and decides if you have jumped through them. Silly things like 30 refereed publications by the age of 30 was an unwritten standard that was worth achieving as it made careers. I came up just shy with 28 papers. Peer review, learned argument and being well-read in your discipline were similar codes and qualities that mattered to academics.
I thought this would be true everywhere.
Sadly it isn’t.
It is not about the absence of a simple Word template, although there is no excuse for such sloppiness, it is the lack of passion to do the job well.
To have even half a chance of fixing the many challenges that humanity faces in the coming decades we all have to find the template and become professional.
If you have five minutes, why not read another Alloporus post