Tag Archives: problem solving

You Always Have a Choice

My 7 year old has a field trip today. My wife usually chaperones them but had a previous commitment so she couldn’t go.

This morning my son, Owen, aske if I could go instead. He asked “daddy, do you have the police paper that says you can go on my trip”

I replied, “no, I didn’t go to the police station to get it. I know you’re disappointed and I’m sorry.”

So he asked mom again, even though he already knew she wasn’t coming. Kids are great at that.

She replied “I don’t have a choice, I have class.” I said to her “you always have a choice” to which she replied “I committed to this event before I knew about the trip so I don’t have a choice”

I said, “you always have a choice, you are choosing to go to the event and that’s great, no need to feel bad about it”

So many people I’ve worked with feel “they have to” do something because of a mandate, order from a boss etc. a constraint is a constraint after all but you always have a choice.

If you work in a crappy company and feel you don’t have a choice, you do. You have plenty of choices. Stay and be miserable, asked to get moved to another department, quit, coast, work on a startup idea instead of doing your job and more.

The point is, you always have a choice, saying you don’t have a choice is choosing to postpone dealing with a more difficult decision.

How to Recover from a Screw-up

Virginia Satir coined the phrase “The problem isn’t the problem, coping with the problem is the problem”.

Today I messed up.

About a month-and-a-bit ago my wife hosted a charity Zumba event and donated all the proceeds.  Yes, she’s awesome.  Well, we put the money in her account and sent them a cheque.  A couple of weeks later I paid a bill using my wife’s account without thinking about the impending cheque clearance and sure enough, the cheque bounced.

As soon as I found out about the cheque bouncing, my mind went through several iterations of processing what happened.

First I thought, “ah, no big deal, we’ll write another cheque“.

Then I thought, “why the hell did THEY take so long to deposit the cheque in the first place?

Then I thought, “ah crap, why did I pay that bill, it wasn’t due for another couple of weeks.”

Then I thought (after transfering money from my wife’s paypal account to her business account)  “I can fix this.”

Then I talked to my wife and apologized for making the mistake and I felt terrible.  I told her I won’t use her account to pay bills, even if it’s her bill.  At least I’ll talk to her first.  She asked me to contact the charity and apologize, which I did, and I also told them I’ll bring another cheque by.

Then I looked deeper.  Why did I want to pay off this bill so quickly?  Well, we need to get the roof done and are planning a home renovation and I wanted to wipe out all our existing debt before applying for more debt!

For those keeping score at home, you’ll realize I went through Christopher Avery’s Responsibility Process within about 10 minutes:

Denial: There is no problem!

Blame:  It’s THEIR fault for not depositing the cheque

Shame: Ah crap I screwed up, I feel bad

Obligation: I will fix this.

Responsibility: sending the apology, apologizing to my wife, agreeing to not touch her account anymore and questioning whether or not it’s the right time to do the renovations.

The best part of this situation was knowing about Christopher’s model and consciously working through the stages knowing that I wanted to get to Responsibility.  It’s 9:21am and I’m quite tired already.  It takes a great deal of mental energy to go through these steps but I feel much better and know I’m not going to have a bad day at work because I dealt with the baggage.

The problem isn’t the problem.  Coping with the problem is the problem.

AYE Workshop Wrap-up

The last day at AYE was a full-day workshop on knowing your options when attacking problems.  This session was particularly interesting as all the hosts, sans Jerry, facilitated.  The goal of the session was to give participants the ability to figure out what approach to problem solving might work best in their situations.

In this workshop there were 4 main approaches: Solve, Manage, Cope, Exit.   We were asked to envision a work-related problem and then choose which particular approach we felt we were using by spreading out across the room from Solve to Exit.  Everyone ranked their problems from 1 – 10 with 10 being “holy-ka-smoly I need to fix this now”

Our Finished Product

The first half of the session was a simulation where we broke into groups and the hosts gave us a ‘problem’.  Well, actually it wasn’t a problem, it was a goal where we needed to work as a team and deliver ‘the most value’ to our customers who were Star Wars collectors.  Ah, the good ‘ol Lego game.  Steve Smith handed out the boxes of Lego and my first instinct was to do nothing and instead give our collectors an autographed box from the original Star Wars cast.  That seemed like it was have the most value to collectors.  Something neat happened then.  The team LOVED the idea and we had instant buy-in through a unanimous fist-of-five which more or less contributed to our LACK of problems since we dissolved it through solid buy-in.

Other groups that built the model ran into skill problems (some people aren’t good at building Lego), workflow problems (hard to co-ordinate that many people on 1 model) and other issues that collaborating teams typically face.

We did a bit of planning to figure out how to make the display case, get the autographs and print out a certificate at the hotel desk and during our execution everyone volunteered for a task and did it.  As people were coming and going from our main work area, we talked about how the goal was extremely clear and there was never a moment where we questioned each other.  Perhaps it was dumb luck.  Perhaps not. Continue reading