Eons ago, I worked with a woman who periodically stopped into my office to declare, “We need a new system.”
“What’s the problem?” I would ask.
“We need a new system.”
Since I was Systems Manager, she was asking the right person, but from my point of view, she was asking the wrong question. Or rather, she was requesting a solution and seemed unable to tell me the problem it was supposed to solve. When I would tell her that we could certainly look at options for new systems, but we would first need to know WHY the current system was inadequate, her eyes would glaze over and she’d wander away. A few months later, she’d wander back in, “We need a new system.”
Clearly I wasn’t explaining myself well. How I wish I’d had this quote from Dr. Phil (I think he was an unknown at the time) to help smooth the way to a better process for her team and the company.
How I wish I’d had this quote to help ME become a better ME. Or that I’d connected the dots and realized that the same principles I used in project management would work in life management.
Instead, I spent most of my adult life chasing the wrong solutions because I never defined the problem correctly…FOR ME. “I want to be thin” is a wish. It’s not a problem. (It’s also not a possibility, but that’s a post for another day. LOL)
“I’m overweight” or “I eat too much X” or “I don’t get enough exercise” are problems. Well, they were problems. When I defined the problems correctly, I was able to define concrete paths to address them. That’s not to say they weren’t (and aren’t) a little crooked now and then or have a patch of gravel here and there. And that’s okay, because part of problem solving is evaluating results and reassessing the situation. For me, wishes can’t really be evaluated. They either come true or they don’t.
I suspect I’m muddling these thoughts just like I apparently muddled the “we need a new system” response. I can see your eyes glazing over. What I’m trying to do is suggest that a little time spent thinking things over and making sure you’re working on the right problem–or even a solvable problem–might save you time, effort, and frustration.
Back to the case of the new system and why I kept insisting we look at the situation and define the actual problem. The system in question was old, true enough, but the time, effort, and frustration with it wasn’t in the system itself but in the data being reported from the field. We could have spent hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars creating a shiny new system, but unless they cleaned up the reporting issues, the problems would still be there.
Kind of like the way I used to spend my dollars and energies chasing solutions to wishes.
Have you defined YOUR problem(s)?
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