Talking About How, Instead Of What

This post is not meant for you, it’s meant for me;  So no need to read.

Start With “What”

People ask for advice. “What should I do, I’m running into this situation where I don’t know whether I should choose A or B?”

Rather than telling them what they should do, I have been realizing that I don’t have the right answer either because I’m not an expert in the area that they person is asking.  Instead, I ask them to take a leap of faith with me and imagine the world 6 months or 1 year from now.

Let’s Jump To The Future

I would ask the person, to imagine what success looks like, regardless of which path to take.  A or B.  This definition of success, would the most hard to please person also agree that the success is undeniable? Would your team agree that this success is also so obvious that it would drive them toward this goal?

Now given this picture of success, which path should you take, A or B?

If the answer is obvious, then we have a winner!

What If It’s Neither?

Alright, now it gets fun!  Let’s say option B sounds more like the ultimate solution, but it’s not perfect yet.  What if I ask you to take B, and instead of finishing 100% of the work, but executed at average quality.  Take option B, do only 50% of what you originally sign up for, but do it really well, teach another team, have the other team accept responsibility for the work and your team can move on and do the same for a new team?  Even though you could only accomplish 50% of the work, the team you taught is now self sufficient, you are not weighted down by the work as you move from team to team to help them.

Principal Of How To Think About Problems

When I have been taught how to think through a problem, and ultimately come up with a solution on my own, I have come away learning one of the principals of how to think about problems.  With this way of thinking, most class of problems can be solved the same way over and over again.  This is why, with the right person, I also try to pass on this technique.

Tony Tam

Senior Principal Architect @ Splunk Founder of ImpactfulEngineer.org & SFBadminton.org