One of the greatest challenges we have with obstacles in our personal and professional lives is making them visible. There’s a book for that on my book list. There’s also lots of books at Amazon about what to do to remove the obstacles. Usually these books contain some overarching framework and several anecdotal examples that illustrate the author’s point. Annie Duke’s Thinking In Bets helps to adjust to the uncertainty of information when making decisions, but what do you do if the system you have for creating options isn’t yielding good results?
The answer is to change it! But how often is that easier said than done?
The military has a huge amount of rigidity built into its culture. It excels at teaching this rigidity in the basic training of each of the services. For the Army, basic training involves learning to fire a rifle. The experience of firing a rifle is new to some of those who join, and even for those that have fired before the type of rifle and shooting expectations for the Army are different from their previous experiences.
Completing the rifle portion of basic training is a non-waiverable requirement. The guy who enlisted to play the bugle in the band has to qualify the same as someone likely to be closer to the front lines. Getting folks trained to where they can pass is the responsibility of the Drill Sergeant.
Jenny loves to shoot. Jenny became a Drill Sergeant. When someone who knows how to shoot is around people who can’t it can turn into a rather frustrating situation. I remember (over 20 years ago now) when I was in basic training if you couldn’t shoot you’d often get an earful. Somehow, Jenny came up with a different strategy that I think has broader application in than just on the firing range in the military.
When a soldier couldn’t shoot, Jenny would run through the basic troubleshooting steps. How’s your steady position? Are you breathing properly? Are you squeezing the trigger instead of jerking it? How’s your sight picture?
These are the questions to ask to assess the obstacles facing the soldier. Applying corrective action in one or more of these areas will likely solve the majority of problems, but they don’t solve all the problems. Basic training for a volunteer army doesn’t disqualify candidates like you might think. It tries to take those who are willing to volunteer and get them to the point they are capable of volunteering. There’s a lot of investment made to get those willing to become those who are capable.
Some people issues aren’t fixed by the responses to the questions above. But those are all the question the organization provides. That is, until Jenny gets there and sees things differently. Jenny started looking at their prescriptions.
What she found was that some soldiers would get their prescription glasses issued with the prescriptions reversed, the wrong prescription, or missed realizing that they needed glasses. The issue for some people was just straight vision related.
We’ve talked a lot about perspective taking. Here’s a case where it literally was the answer! But it’s also the answer to a lot of what we do in life. Sometimes when we’re working with someone who’s consistently missing their work targets the answer is to take them aside and help them get their prescription checked.