There is a term that is used largely in the culinary world – weeded. It means that you are overwhelmed by tasks, have insufficient resources, and are lost in the weeds. The French term is slightly more evocative; dans le merde or “in the sh*t.” Michael Ruhlman referred to his experience of being in the weeds on the cooking line as “… one of the worst feelings in the world.”
When we talk about being “in the Red”, this awful feeling of being overwhelmed is a large component of it. For me, the worst part about being in the Red is a tossup between the feeling of being overwhelmed and the inability to self-diagnose situational awareness that is that low.
Getting to this point often means some of your management strategies have been insufficient. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that trying to restore and improve those strategies while you’re in the middle of dealing with whatever’s got you in the Red is pretty well impossible. In fact, that’s the point where you pretty much cease to even be aware of anything but what’s actually on fire in front of you.
Trying to help someone who’s dans la merde is hard too. One of the best way to figure out if your mission buddy is in the Red is to attempt communication. Oh, they won’t be able to tell you what’s wrong and what they need. If they’re far enough into the Red they physically can’t process the information enough. Instead, someone who’s in the Red is likely to either be mute or use a language made of pure profanity.
Risk and Resource Management saves lives, yes. It saves money and saves relationships and saves property. But it also works to keep you out of the weeds, de la merde if you will. With good Resources in place you can do a lot to avoid the awful feeling of being in over your head and certain that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.