Context is Everything

In problem-solving, the context of the problem and the solution derived from are everything.

Take the example…

Two houses are late being built – one is behind by two months, one is behind by six.

The one that is behind by six months is due to environmental issues, bad weather, tough rock, lots of snow, etc, etc.  The team has put in extra hours to make up for the delay but keep getting hit with issue after issue that is outside of their control.

The second house had no issues, they knew the first house was delayed so they took their time knowing they’d still look like “superstars” compared to house #2.

Both houses are late but the team building House #1 are breaking all the rules to make it happen, doing all they can to make it happen.

Context is everything.

If you read this far…

There comes a time when you are writing a document and you question whether anyone will read it.  You spend hours putting it together and part way through you start asking yourself this question.  This is a document that you send out to a large group of people that you are not sure if they will look at it or delete it as quickly as it enters their inbox.

So you have two options;

  1. Stop.
  2. If you read this far…


Yes you can stop working on this document and simply make a case for it’s irrelevance.  That might work, but it might make those in the position of consuming (the reader) said document to become entrenched in their decision to have you provide it.  Still doing a document, albeit perhaps with more scrutiny at the way someone else wants to see it done.

If you read this far…

Or you can simply add a line at the end of your document, at the end of your best work, that goes beyond the document but drives the action to reader.  It’s not about being rude, demeaning or ignorant.  It’s about reaching out and starting a conversation.

In can be as simple as…

“If you read this far, did this help?  Did this provide you with the information you needed?  Could you spare 5 minutes to sit down with me and discuss what else needs to be here?  I’ll buy the coffee?”

In the best case scenario, you could spark a conversation or discussion on what is really needed and tweak your style so you know it is being consumed, in the worst case scenario, you’ll have some pretty immediate metrics on whether people are reading your work.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Three things I learned last week that you can apply to anything, anything in life.

I don’t take credit for any of these, but I find myself repeating them to myself through every interaction I have had since then.  Take a problem you are working on and apply the below.

What you know

Simply put, what do you know about the problem, what facts do you have in front of you that jump out at you as important and frame the view of what is forming the framework of the problem.  The facts, not the emotions and definitely not the assumptions.

What you don’t know

On this problem, what do you not know- what hard facts still remain that you do not know about.  It’s the missing puzzle pieces in the problem that are holding you back and perhaps that is the best way to think about it – “what do I not have, that is preventing me from moving forward.”  Not knowing how to code the solution?  Definitely something you don’t know.  Don’t know how this process works?  Something you don’t know.

What you need to know

What is ambiguous, what is eating at you, what is making your gut say – “no that’s not it, we’re not there yet”.  These are the questions you need to ask next to be able to move forward in the problem and solve for what you do not know.  Do you need to expand on what you know (expanding your worldview and framework) or is where you are enough that you simply need some additional blanks filled in.

And to coin NBC, now you know, three simple questions anyone can remember from sports, to work, to fixing the garage door opener.

It’s not the Tools

I can’t do this without new Tool x.

If only we had this software everything would be perfect.

After a practice, where I felt like I fell 10 times on the ice, I went to get changed thinking my skates MUST be dull – it can’t be me – I could not have been THAT bad.

Turns out the skates were fine, both edges were sharp, but the skater was dull 🙂

It’s so easy to go to a conference or watch a video on YouTube and think “YES” – the answer to our problems, by that piece of software and we are golden, our problems for life are solved.

But that’s rarely the case – sometimes despite the best tools, the problem isn’t with the software but the operators.

And sometimes, it’s only after that realization that you go – “It’s me, us, our process” – and from there you start to figure out how to make it better.

If you’re are unwilling to step back and look at the problem, you will always think that there is a silver bullet out there that can solve your problems.

Trust the Process

There are times in life where you have to trust without knowing the end result.  Trust that the people leading you have only your best interests at heart.  That is very easy when you know all the twist and turns you are going to take to get from A to B and the road is laid out in front of you so you can see all the speed bumps ahead of you.

Not so easy, when you are starting at A, cannot see the road for all the fog and are not sure whether B is even out there.

I am not what I would call a very heavy process person, yes it’s necessary and yes it’s needed but I typically equate the level of processes I follow to that what is necessary to accomplish what must be done.  In other words…

Processes should not hinder People.

So if we need to Trust the Process, then what are we really trusting?

The People.

And that’s where the crux comes from, these people that maybe you have worked with for many years but perhaps have been thrown a new curveball to work through or perhaps it is your first interaction with a new team member or better yet a new coach.  Regardless of the role, you are now being asked to trust this person and the path they are leading you down – perhaps they have been down it themselves, perhaps they have lead others, better yet perhaps they are side-by-side with a lantern walking down the path with you, stumbling through the dark trying to find the right way.

So yes, you need to decide whether you can and will be able to Trust this Process and;

  • Not criticize when things go wrong.
  • Work with the Process (read: People) and not against it.
  • Take the curves hard, but learn how to handle them better the next time.
  • Lean into the Process (again read: People) and ask for support, suggestions, ideas and feedback.
  • Don’t engage in the back channels, bring them to the front and keep the discussion going.

As I write this, there are a slew of people gearing up for AltMBA3 January Sessions and I remember this phrase of Trust the Process when all around us we were trying to figure out what was really required, what does it take to get my post featured, how much SLACK collaboration should I do, what people’s backgrounds are, do we follow the same process each and every week, what should I have read, what should I be reading, you know I have a full-time job right?

In the end, like everything else, Trust the Process and know when I say Trust the Process – Trust the People – your team members, your coaches and your larger team.

Just as you should in every interaction of your daily life, Trust the Process and have fun doing it.