The Right Answer

The project managers in our building sit near each other when we’re not in meetings all day long.

The other day my neighbor had applied for an open position in the company and done her interview. During the interview she was asked what one thing she would change in how the project management office is working. She shared her answer with me.

It was awesome and articulate. It spoke to a real problem. As she was talking about what changes could occur I easily found myself becoming a champion of her solution. I thought it was great.

She was disappointed in the response. I asked why.

She explained that she felt her entire answer was inaccurate. No analysis was done to demonstrate that her answer was the correct one, so while she may have articulated her idea well, she couldn’t prove to herself that the idea had value beyond her own experience.

I tried to demonstrate that it did.

She didn’t accept my perspective. She was firm that the right answer could only be a researched answer. So I decided to use a bit of a research technique to help.

The technique is the 80:20 rule. It’s known as the Pareto Principle and paraphrased states that 80% of your value comes from 20% of the effort. Now, this is a principle, not a hard fast rule. Sometimes the ratio is 73:27, or 85:15, but the idea is still the same and usually remains close to 80:20 regardless of the industry or environment.

I asked my neighbor to consider the Pareto Principle means that she didn’t need to be 100% accurate about whether her response was truly top of the list. It just needed to be in the top 20%.

The conversation didn’t end with my neighbor changing her mind, doing a 180 on her perspective, and walk away with a new positive attitude. She’s not that type of person. Some people take time to change how they see things. My neighbor is one of them. I was grateful she listened in the moment. She’s the sort of person who also listens after the moments and considers other’s perspectives.

While I don’t think my answer was life changing, I do think it was truthful and uplifting. Since that conversation we’ve shared more thing that indicate the way we talked that day help to build a stronger bond of trust between us.

Trust is a good thing to have.

The right answer isn’t singular. It’s plural. Being in the range of right is better than not doing anything. Had I tried to search for the exact right words I wouldn’t have strengthened a friendship.

Photo by Septimiu Lupea on Pexels.com

Just out of reach

When we were kids we used to pretend that the ground was lava. Why? because it created a fun challenge. Who cared about the efficiency of getting from place to place? It was about enjoying the task even with restrictive rules.

In language the same thing occurs and the Oulipo movement is essentially ‘the ground is lava’ for writing.

Sometimes we put things just out of reach because achieving the goal is less satisfying than the journey.

Maybe we should remember to enjoy it instead of being frustrated from not being there yet.

How to Move a Mountain

How to Move a Mountain by Cherie Call

I love messages that encourage us to change our perspective. This is a great one. It talks about how in order to move a mountain one need merely climb it. The hike isn’t always easy, but it works. When you start hiking up a mountain it’s in front of you. By the time you get to the top the mountain is beneath you.

Sure, you could say that you moved over the mountain, but when you describe where it is, you’ll have to say it’s underneath you.

A mountain that’s underneath you is in a much different spot than a mountain that’s in front of you.

Afternote:

For some reason Cherie Call’s songs aren’t on my streaming app ;-( but I hope they’re on yours. I think the way her licensing works out, it’s only available on iTunes. So here’s the link to buy this lovely song. Hopefully who ever is managing the royalties will work to allow her music to be released on other platforms and generate more royalties for this lovely artist.

The Right Prescription

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.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com