Zen is you – Be.

Remember ‘Why’?

Posted in impact, objectives, satisfaction by dave225 on May 22, 2012

So fundamental, so easily missed.

WHY https://ungard.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/why-why-why/
WHY http://thestuffihave.com/blog/?p=208

Forget about adoption – it’s easy to get people excited about something new.


Why it matters, even if people are on board with ‘What’ ….

Because eventually, people need a different ‘What’. “Gettin shit done” aint a reason to exist. People get bored with what you’re doing – even if it’s a temporary boredom. Unaddressed boredom turns into resentment. Resentment begets fight.. or, … flight.

… All because you don’t even know why you’re getting out of bed in the morning.  What an easy save that could be.

Solve Problems by Asking, not Telling

Posted in ideas, objectives by dave225 on January 15, 2010

“What you need to do is …”

Here’s my problem of the day with Twitter:  looking at most tweets, I see people proposing (to whom, I’m not exactly sure) solutions to the world’s problems.  Reducing the problems to easily-solved contests that are met by spouting platitudes like, “No more bonuses for Wall St. until …” or “Provide health coverage just like they do in (whatever country)” .

So why haven’t the decision makers just looked to Twitter to fix things?  The answers are there, and they’re so simple!  Well, for the same reason they haven’t solved the problems in the first place – everyone has an answer.  Who has an earnest question? (I ask rhetorically. J)

Instead of presuming to know enough to spout off a solution, what if people started asking questions?  “Why do we need Wall St bonuses?  What would happen if the financial community cleaned house and paid salaries competitive with other industries?”   At the least, the people asking the questions might learn more about a subject (if they care to listen to the response.) But possibly, the people responsible for solving the problem may think of the problem in a new way – particularly if a naïve question demands that they defend something that they take for granted.

All this musing led me to the real point.  It’s easy to criticize popular media for not asking enough questions.  But is there a problem-solving methodology buried in this premise?  Beyond the simple “ask ‘Why’ three times” idea , “what if” scenarios, Pareto analysis, Ishikawa, Decision Trees, etc…  is there a more formal methodology and workflow that uses questions to solve problems?  Something that ties all of those methods together, but is more formal than using “expert judgement” to determine which method to use at various stages.  E.g. ‘Use X method to obtain output in the form of ______, which is used as input into Y method.’

What if I started to formulate one?  No – wrong question… Where can I find such a thing?  Why doesn’t exist if it doesn’t?  How would I go about documenting and testing it?


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Why Why Why

Posted in impact, objectives, satisfaction, Uncategorized by dave225 on December 24, 2008

Perhaps you’re familiar with this parable about stone masons and purpose (text that I lifted from here, but it could have been anywhere):

I’m reminded of a story about a traveler in the Middle Ages, who visited a city where many stone cutters were working. Approaching several, he asked the same question:

“What are you doing?”

The first stonecutter he met replied, “I’m cutting stone. It’s dull work, but it pays the bills.”

A second stonecutter responded, “I’m the best stone cutter in the land. Look at the smoothness of this stone, how perfect the edges are.”

A third pointed to a foundation several yards away, and said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

One lacked purpose altogether. The second was proud of the work he did. But the third clearly had a sense of purpose, of the greater reason for his work. It’s safe to assume that the third stone cutter never got lost in the boredom of the work or became obsessed with being the best. The third stone cutter knew that his work was critical to the successful completion of a larger project the construction of a cathedral.

Well it occurred to me this morning that this parable is incomplete.  “I’m building a cathedral!”  Well why in god’s name* are you doing that?  The vision for this cathedral isn’t to have a giant, unoccupied building plopped down where there used to be farmland.  And it wasn’t built just to give people something to do.  What’s the bigger WHY?!

It must have a bigger purpose than “build it.”  Is it to glorify God*?  To establish a place of community, a civic center? And why would you want either of those?  To raise the standard of living for all citizens or to make the king richer?  What is the real vision? And what are the real benefits?

Execution (i.e. building stuff) comes from people working.  Vision and strategy come from the top.  Every bit of work at every level should have that vision behind it.  So whether you’re building a cathedral or a website:  ask yourself about the real why.

(*no specific religious affiliation, promotion or denigration intended.)

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The Boss is Always Right

Posted in objectives, Uncategorized by dave225 on November 14, 2008

Oh, it hurts to even write it. The boss is always right? Well, yes. Yes, boss.

Even when the boss is wrong.

Caveat 1 – The boss is not right when the boss is ethically wrong.  Don’t do anything you have a moral problem with. But if you have a moral problem with it, either talk it out or take it to H.R.

No one likes a sycophant.

Caveat 2 – Don’t be a “Yes” man. If you disagree with your boss, speak up. There is nothing wrong with questioning your boss’s position if you are genuinely questioning for the purpose of enlightenment. “Explain it again, I still don’t see your point of view” is different from “You’re wrong. I want to do things my way.” You have one, maybe two opportunities to disagree outright and explain why your opinion is right. But if you can’t sell it, it’s time to toe the line. And here’s why ….

  1. Strategy. You may not be able to see everything that is influencing decisions at the levels above you.  Moving a company forward is done through vision and leadership, which may bubble up from the bottom, but needs to be driven from the top.  Staffing and decisions are based on reaching those goals.  Even when the decisions are bad, they need to be in alignment.
  2. Trust. You build trust with your boss by supporting his objectives. The more trust you build and the more your boss believes that you are there help him to be successful, the more he will listen to you when you do have a dissenting opinion.
  3. Paycheck. Remember who does your review and approves your paycheck.  Your place within the organization depends on whether you’re helping to achieve its goals.  And it’s your boss who decides how well you’re doing that.

Even if you have the worst, most unreasonable boss in the world, figure out what motivates him.  Be a part of his team.  You’ll not only feel more productive, but you’ll gain some social capital.   (OK, fine line between that and being a toady – decide for yourself where that line is.)

Question authority.  Innovate.  Improve the process.  But make it align with the big picture.  And make sure you understand the big picture – and the littler pictures underneath.

Damn!  Missed Bosses Day.