Leadership Nudge® 342 – Redwork/Bluework Swimming Analogy

March 3, 2021by Sandy Wilmer

Leaders help the team manage the rhythm on Redwork (doing) and Bluework (thinking). Make time to pause, evaluate production relative to your goal, make course correction as needed, and then continue working.


Good morning! I’m here on beautiful Manasota Key beach (Florida) to talk about Redwork and Bluework, the rhythm of doing and thinking at work.  

When you watch elite swimmers, their bodies are horizontal near the surface of the water, their heads are in a neutral position looking down at the lane line. But here, there’s no lane line. So I’m going to have to raise my head to sight down the beach to catch the buoys that mark the swim area. That’s going to cause my hips to drop and slow me down. But it’s a trade off I’m willing to take. Otherwise, I might just kind of go left and end up over in Galveston some someplace.  

This is what we have to do at work. We momentarily pause. We slow down from production to sight where we are relative to our goal. That’s blue work. It’s thinking work, it’s inviting of perspective. I’m casting around, and then we put our head down, we go back into work, our bodies become streamlined, and we’re working on production.  

This is the rhythm that leaders have to manage. How long do I stay in production mode before I pause? We basically, metaphorically, for the team, put our pencils down, raise our heads and evaluate where we are relative to our goal, make a course correction, put our heads back down and do it. That’s the rhythm of red work and blue work. 

I’m David Marquet and that’s your Leadership Nudge®. 

Sandy Wilmer

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