The Timeliness of It All

Time plays an important part in any solution.
We often wait too long. Do you consider your problem not important enough for you to solve it now? Or you don't feel like solving it now? Stop. There is no better time than now. Unless your solution depends on a certain time to pass or to wait until a certain time comes, get started as soon as you can. If you can start now, take the opportunity. You just may not be able to start tomorrow.
If you are hesitating, ask yourself whether the problem is no longer a problem? This fork in the road that is often taken without considering two main questions. First, don't make hesitation a reason to stop. It becomes an easy way out for those looking for a way out of solving the problem. Are you saying that the problem is no longer one simply to get out of solving it?
The second question is: Do you like the way things are, the way it is while there problem exists? It is the choice for those who want the status quo to remain or to be seen as making an effort to solve it but don't really want to. Ask yourself whether you are either of them. If not, try this: Go back to StepOne and try it again. Admit that is is a problem. Can you still do that?

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics 2

Continued from Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
One rule to always remember is "Just because is sounds true, doesn't mean it's true". If choosing a solution mean relying on statistics, keep the statistics simple. A statistic that is in a simple sentence can be analysed much quicker than if we were to question it's validity by involving the data. For example: If  that statement is "The device fails after an average of 14 months", it could be broken down into
  1. What does a failure mean? A problem that result in a replacement or device stops functioning requiring manual restart?
  2. Who did the test? The manufacturer or real-world experience by the person making the claim
  3. How long does it take to replace or fix? How long is the downtime? This takes a look at the affect of the statistics instead of the statistics itself. By assessing the statistics effect on choosing the solution, we can figure out how important it is and how important it be true. 

So far, yet so close

The title isn't wrong. It's supposed to be the other way around but when it comes to problem solving, it's probably right.
You've made the journey this far. You've admitted that it was a problem, even though it was hard to do. In the process, you even admitted that some other things were a problem too and needed to be addressed. You've sat down and described the problem honestly and in it's entirety, not glossing over anything nor overstating the minor issues. You've went through and found solutions, both natively and from others, both that require modification in behavior and process and those that require acquisition of new things. You looked at them alone and with others, selecting the best solution for the best situation before checking with reality and choosing one. You've made it this far. Ask yourself the hard questions. Why do so many people reach here but go no further? Why are you still here and haven't went ahead and just solve your problem?
A lot of efforts to solve problems, go the distance in terms of coming up with a solution but when it comes to just doing the solution, gets bogged down by inertia, fear and fatigue. It does seem counter-intuitive that someone who knows what the solution is, does not make the effort to just implement the solution. But it is very common. Ask any drunk who wants to quit.

Describe the Problem

Step 2 of the 5 Steps  is to "describe the problem" you are facing. The purpose of this is to gain a better understanding of what is it that you are facing, what is it that you want to achieve and possibly get another perspective or view on it.

THE best way to start solving a problem is to describe it in detail with someone who knows something on the subject or topic. Not necessarily someone who knows more but rather someone who understands the problem the way you do. Literally, someone who would use the same jargon. This could be a colleague or it could be in the form of a post on a forum. The discussion that follows could lay the solid foundation for a solution or even better, a greater understanding. They would be able ask the right questions, relevant questions that will test how much is known about the problem and it's causes. It may be embarrassing or even ego-busting but if it means solving the problem or getting closer, it is well worth it. At the end of it, smile and say thanks. Everybody appreciates being appreciated.

The next best thing is to describe the problem to someone who has a lot of experience facing other kinds of problems. They may not need to share the same knowledge on the subject of the problem. Instead, what they bring is experience. The details may differ but the tools or ways of thinking through a problem is roughly the same. They may ask you "stupid" questions, questions someone with the knowledge on the subject would not normally ask. This is a good thing. You would have to re-tell the problem or things related to the problem in a different way so that they understand. You could use different terms or simple analogies, examples that are roughly the same. My favorite analogy is that taking care of a computer is like taking care of a car. There are things you do when the computer or car breaks down (bring to mechanic/repair dude) and they are things you do regularly to keep them running well (change the oil / getting updates). All through this process, the problem will be re-examined and re-cast until more than one perspective of the problem is formed. Within one of those perspectives may lie the solution.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

The phrase used above was first popularized by Mark Twain. It questions the use of statistics by questioning it's validity. Especially when it supports an argument that seems weak. 
It is damning because people put a degree of faith in statistics. The reason for this is because statistics are factual in nature. The way the figures are presented appears to be cold facts as opposed to opinions. At best, we see statistics as representing and reporting on data that have been processed by more knowledgeable people, therefore more trustworthy. But if examine closely this relationship, there lies the flaw. When we trust statistics, we are really trusting the people who came up with them. But doesn't that mean when someone is quoting statistics, its really hearsay? Ouch.
Basically yes. Don't assume hearsay is bad although the word is usually used negatively in courts. There are ways to figure out if statistics quoted to us really mean what they say. It involves asking hard questions like:

Teaming Up To Win 2

Continued from Teaming Up To Win.
A sports team has a very clear structure. Each team member knows what they have do. Each of them have both specific and general tasks. General tasks are jobs that are common to all members. Like to stop the members of the other team from crossing the field in football. At the same time they each can have specific tasks. A team member has to block a specific guy or run the interception pattern. All of these actions together form teamwork.
A sign of a winning team is when these tasks are clearly defined by the Coach. A good Team Captain knows not only his tasks but also those of all his team members. This information is crucial if he has to call an audible or make changes on the field to respond to some thing he sees happening in the game.
Each team member doing their job well is half the job done. What makes the whole more than the sum of its parts is how each member interacts and communicates with each other. Both of these are reliant on each other.

Getting Personal

Personal problems are the hardest kind of problems to solve alone. Personal problems are not just the private, non-work kind but can also be work problems taken personally. Work-related problems involving personality clashes other co-workers can also be taken as a personal problem.
Personal problem are hard because they tend to cloud our our judgment. Things we would normally see become obscure or even hidden. We can think we have ran out of options. Personal problems also change the way we act or behave. What we usually avoid doing suddenly becomes an option, sometimes the first option. Even the degree of what we do changes, taking our action too far or not far enough. All this makes Step 2 and Step 3 hard to do.
But there are ways to make dealing with personal problems easier.

  1. Get help. If you cannot see, some else can. To not seek help when it is available is not wise. Asking for help is offering to trust. Make Step 1 to be a declaration of "I have a personal problem and I need help".
  2. Write it down. When no help is near or you find it hard to trust, writing can be an equal substitute. By putting down your problem on something, you are starting on Step 2. Continue this by reading it back what you've written to yourself. Follow Step 2 and complete the description of your problem.
  3. Give yourself some distance between yourself and the problem. If you have the time, put what you wrote away for a while, like a day. Go and do something that normally makes you happy. Something simple like taking a walk, reading a book, having an ice cream or watching cats playing the piano.. Take a nap. When you feel refreshed, read back what you wrote. Or think about what you said when you asked help. If it helps, try talking it out a bit more. Imagine your are reading a problem someone else sent you. What advice do you have for yourself? Are you ready for Step 3?
  4.  If you think you are not ready, try to get help to start Step 3. Or you perhaps you want to take things slowly. Check yourself up. How are you feeling? If you are angry or upset, perhaps you should do something else. Or just let it all out. Either way is better than staying put. Personal problems can be very draining. Sometimes we can feel that we have given until we have left nothing to give. We can feel like we are drowning in the sea of despair. Just don't loose the one thing we need to stay afloat, hope.
  5. Stop making it personal. Ask yourself, how can I make this not personal to me? Is it really personal or am I just adding that dimension myself. Exercise your powers of rationality. Look from outside the box.
Personal problem can rob us of our judgement and objectivity. Yet we face them every day in many forms. That means that personal problems can only rob us of our wisdom and clarity of thought only when we allow them to do so.