External Radiance Projection 2010: A Christmas / Upgrade Story

No, I’m not a Christmas fanatic – but when you live in Chicago, you learn to look for nice weather in the weeks approaching Thanksgiving, to put up the lights before the wind and cold conspire to make it a painful experience. Basically, I gotta burn a vacation day – but why not? It’s an opportunity to get away from the hassles of work in Corporate IT …

… except this year, I finally had to deal with my outdated Christmas light hanging system – a set of rigid plastic elements that I installed 12 years ago, providing features that I considered very important back then – and still do today …

  • fast installation before Christmas – I can get the whole house done in about an hour
  • makes all the lights line up perfectly straight, square, and true
  • fast tear down afterward – I can pull this stuff down in about 30 minutes

A fine system, hits my requirements perfectly – and it was a ton of work to set up in the first place. I remember “go-live weekend” – it took two whole days to get it all installed and configured. A real pain – I swore I would never go through that experience again. I noted that I didn’t need to hire outside contractors to help with the implementation – did it all myself, with very inexpensive Christmas light technology – state of the art (for it’s time).

And for many years, everything went exactly as I expected. I don’t know if I ever consciously thought that the system would last forever; in the back of my mind, I knew it wouldn’t. Still, I am a practical man, and there was always some new Christmas decoration requirement that got higher priority. Also – my family was growing, and demands on our time were changing. Newer, fancier methods for lighting your house would come out, and fashions might change in the neighborhood, but this was good, reliable technology, and there was no solid Christmas reason to make a technology change.

CIM%20Upgrade%202010
Where are the quantifiable benefits?

Oh sure – through the years, the “system” started showing it’s age. It was reasonably priced stuff at the time of implementation, so while I did pick up some spare parts (pre-paid xmas light maintenance, as it were), it became tougher and tougher to keep things together. The plastic was spending months out in the cold every year – it was turning this ugly shade of yellow, and really looked bad against my freshly painted white house. Bulbs blew out every year, but that’s planned maintenance. And yes, I didn’t follow my own “standard work processes” – sometimes I wrapped things up neatly before storing, sometimes I just tossed the stuff up in the attic. Of course, I paid for it later – occasional autumn breakage while untangling the previous season’s laziness, things like that.

All calculated “risks” – I knew this stuff couldn’t last, but soon the cost of change became a deterrent. Or at least, the perceived cost of change – because I could only see myself replacing like-for-like. I have a system and a mindset for hanging Christmas lights that works just fine – have used it for years, looks great all lit up at night – why change?

At least, that was my push back against the update proposals that kept coming from my Chief Imagination Officer – my wife, who wanted to address the ugly yellow plastic stuck to the front of the house. And my own set of Millennials (1 and 2) were pushing this new green technology – LED light sets, better for the environment, and just looked better, more stylish.

So, when I started this morning, I finally had to admit the old technology was shot. No replacement parts, and I couldn’t find the same technology to replace what I had with new or equivalent. I finally decided to use what the CIO and the Gen-Y ladies were pushing for, acquiescing to the internal demand – even though I wasn’t sure they were listening to my basic requirements. In the end, it was a group decision, but I did hold an override vote on any specific technology and implementation approach that they brought to the table. I’m glad I listened to their ideas – the new stuff is marginally better – just not as earth shattering as the demo. I think the family was a bit more disappointed than I was – something I found mildly interesting, given the technology ardor that brought this all on.

Also, I have had to give up on some of my requirements … but the family got some new benefits that we weren’t expecting …

  • installation is slower – takes about 1.5 hours
  • the lights are not perfectly lined up – they are up there, just not square and true like before
  • I had to cut back on the total linear feet of roof edge that I could cover, based of the way the new stuff hooks to the house – lost about 15% of the total lights
  • I still can pull the lights down quickly – definitely in less time than last year
  • It’s much easier to store this stuff for the winter

My Chief Imagination Officer and the Millennials had to learn some lessons here, too … a bit of empathy, and some realism when listing out the benefits. We all lost a bit on the original requirements, but gained some nice, unplanned benefits, which made the project, for the most part, OK.

Well, for them at least – they have already moved on to the next exciting new Christmas decoration technology, while I am left working out the bugs in the new external lights. I wonder if they will be surprised when I resist working on any new projects until next year.

Ok, enough of this pre-holiday “fun”! It’s back to work tomorrow, where I’ll be diving once again into the plans and internal justifications for the coming ERP upgrade. It never ceases to amaze me how much effort I have to put into the project communications, and the education and planning with the Business. They are so wedded to their legacy systems …

… wait a second …


This Post Has One Comment
  1. excuse me, i am mentioned in this article yet had no idea any of this was going on, thank you very much. i am sure i will not be disappointed but whatever, assume i will be like mom and sean.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles

The Last 5 Minutes: Digital Innovation When You Aren’t Expecting It

Breakthrough ideas often emerge at the very end of a focused conversation - as an afterthought, an "oh, by the way", just "one more quick thing" that slips out just when you thought it was time to go. The first in a series - real stories of breakout ideas and insights that happened in the last 5 minutes of the meeting.
read more

James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.