With a large part of my early career spent designing and testing telecoms billing systems, one of the inexact sciences that I still find intriguing is the word: “rounding”. I remember one client making millions of extra pounds with the Finance Director requiring their new system to round-up every recorded minute as opposed to rounding them down – even though it was against the regulations.
Yet rounding errors and rounding up and down is a small part of the “art of rounding things out”. The circle is probably the most drawn, painted and elegant symbol in Art that continues to enthral us, whatever age, gender, colour or creed we are:
Rounding things out is an almost innate human need. And some are better at it than others! Indeed Belbin allocated one of his nine famous team roles to the “completer finisher” – defined as follows:
The Completer-Finisher is most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.
Strengths: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.
Allowable weaknesses: Can be inclined to worry unduly, and reluctant to delegate.
Don’t be surprised to find that: They could be accused of taking their perfectionism to extremes.
Surely a very useful person to have on any team – particularly as the team comes to the end of a task? Somehow, though, in the modern world, completer-finishers do not seem to be so highly valued. Technology firms with meteoric values and no customers just want to get on and create the next feature. Dreams and visions win over completed circles.
The recent big storms hitting North Western Europe was another reminder for me that we continue to pollute our oceans with plastic – and that we are taking very little effective action to curb the rising trend of more and more plastic being dumped daily into the ocean.
Any rising consciousness of rounding things out is increasingly drowned out by the advertising industry pushing for the convenience of fast food and throw-away packaging. “Someone else’s problem. Let me get on with my life. I’ve got too much else to worry about than where my rubbish will end up! In any case, I don’t have the space for all those extra sorting bins in my tiny flat!” Roughly the words from a forty-something London urban female I met recently. She comes from a different planet from the one I live on.
I suppose that some of my angst on this subject stems from spending a year in Berlin in 1980. If it could be fed to the pigs, it was. Otherwise, if it was rubbish, it was very carefully disposed of by folding it up or squashing it. Disposal of rubbish was very expensive because the number of landfill sites inside The Wall were scarce. Programmed about such things in my early ’20s, I suppose I have kept a consciousness that most London forty-somethings would think quite abnormal.
I’ve never particularly seen myself as having the characteristics of a completer-finisher. However, the older I get, the more concerned I am becoming over the lack of importance attached to round things out. Indeed, after a recent Circular Business Design workshop we ran, I coined a new term “Telosonance” meaning “having concern for where something might end up”. From the Greek word “Telos” meaning objective or end-result” and an ending sounding like resonance, it creates a word for something that we don’t seem to have in everyday use in the English language.
Maybe the “art of rounding things out” is a similar idea as Telosonance? Except that it is the consequential action that follows a concern or feeling that things, people or places are not lined-up to complete the disposal of the thing-in-question in an elegant way – in other words – “to round things out”.
I’m not sure the Finance Director of the dodgy telecoms company that I worked with those many years ago would have worried about any of this, but it is a subject that is close to my heart at the moment. I truly believe that we need to applaud the ways that completer-finishers think about problems. Sooner or later, we are all going to have to worry about where things end up and help find elegant ways to round-out and clear up the mess that we have made over the past 100 years.