Doing something bad: using Tabletop Excercise as a learning tool

We may come across the need to do something bad. Sometimes it helps to repeat our failed attempts at solving a problem. There are two likely reasons to do this. The first is to learn from our mistakes. If we can repeat safely what we did previously that didn't work, we can pinpoint what things didn't work or went wrong.
The second reason to do something we know doesn't work is to make notes on what did work and what has to be done in any solution that we choose. In another article, where I talked about how we need to learn something new when we want to do something new, I also pointed out that by finding a way to redo past processes, it becomes easier to execute a new process. Knowing what steps to repeat or things that have to be done because it affects other people, can ease us into a new process. How? It eliminates the concern that we missed something. We get to rid that feeling that we missed something.
The real problem is how can we repeat something that didn't work without making a bigger problem?

One way is use a tabletop exercise. Tabletop exercises is a favorite tool of emergency response services. First, it's cheaper than trying to replicate a full-blown catastrophe. Second, it provides a way for the leaders of organizations that have different functions and responsibilities to work together while still being responsible and in control of their own organizations.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's get the basics of a tabletop exercise right.
The tabletop exercise is run by a facilitator. In the context of problem solving, this is either us or the person who knows the problem. The role of the facilitator is run the exercise or scenario. We'll get to that in detail shortly. The players are other member your team or other people who are solving the problem together with you. The players will interact with each other and the facilitator as the facilitator brings the group of players through the scenarios of the problem.
It's also very useful to have an observer. This person or group is someone who is familiar with the situation or technology or mechanics of the problem but not necessarily part of your team or responsible to solve the problem. Their role is to provide an outside perspective. Observers take note of their concerns or questions but don't participate initially. Once the facilitator finishes with the scenario, the observers can ask questions and present their thoughts and ideas. The observer's role is not just to criticize but offer suggestions that the players may not have thought of during the exercise.

Overcoming the fear of Change rationally

The only constant is change. Or so we remind ourselves so often. Why? Because like it or not, at one time or the other, we all have feared change. Change is the unknown and we have a tendency to fear what we do not know. In Step5, we deal with change itself. This is simply because the solution we choose to solve our problem will undoubtedly bring out change.
I've talked about before that in order to start changing, we must first accept change. Accepting change allows us to face change without the mental weights of thinking how to resist change and finding ways to keep the status quo. I've also mentioned that sometimes we should overcome fear of change by simply being impulsive.
But let's say we learned something new but are hesitant to apply what we learned. It's there but not put to use. Like a tool that we bought but still in the packaging. The reason for this hesitation is because it is a form of fear of change. Specifically, we are unsure whether that new thing we learned is better than we already know. We wonder whether it will produce better results that what we normally do.
One way to overcome this fear is to go over the previous unsuccessful attempt. By repeating steps we've taken before, we can be sure not to miss anything. Another way is to overcome it rationally. First, we rationalize how we got to this point. Either what we were doing before wasn't working or the results we were producing wasn't good enough. So that establishes that what we need to do is something else. It's likely that we had tried what we knew but even those efforts weren't successful. So, when we exhaust what we know, all that is left if to try something new.
Second, let's rationalize the change itself by ensuring that the change is not really a total change, that we are not changing for change's sake. In fact, the best change we can do is to build on our experiences. One of the main concerns about doing something new is failing to achieve what did work before. There are two ways we can make sure when we try something new, we achieve at least some success. First, we must know what success looks like. We need to list down what that something new must achieve. We must define the goals so that whatever new things we do, it's headed in the right direction.
Second, we must also list what needs to be done other than the main goals. Even though what we did before didn't work out, it probably still did some things that were necessary. Like reports that needed to be generated along the way or measurements that needed to be taken for quality purposes. Sometimes, our previous efforts did something that was required for something else to work or necessary for another group's success. By running through what we did before and taking note of the necessary steps or things we need to produce along the way, we are ensuring the change we are achieving by doing something new still hit key targets along the way.

Repeating mistakes to learn something new

Sometimes when dealing with problems, we find that we face the same problem again and again. If it is not the same, the problems are similar. And we do our best to solve it each time. It's worse if the same problem keeps recurring, even after we solved it a few times. If we do realize this, it's actually a good thing. We have noticed a pattern and realized that what we have been doing hasn't been working out. It's good because now we know for sure that we need to do something new to solve our problem.
Learning something new or learning to do something new usually comes at Step5. We have chosen a solution and that solution can be something totally new. Which is a good thing because we have established that if the problem keeps recurring and we keep on doing the same solution, that solution doesn't really solve the problem. So we have to deal not only with a new solution but learning to do something new. 
But how do we learn something new? I’m going to save that for another time. Why? Because the hardest thing to do is not learning something new but doing something new. If we think about it, we already have many things that we have learned but haven’t applied. We know so many things that we haven't tried out yet. So, we are going to first learn how to apply something we already learned. This is so that when we do learn something new, we can put it to work immediately.
Not just put it to work once. But adopt it as a new way of working. It’s much like learning English or any other language. You have to apply what you learn. Only then will we become better at it.
We can make doing something new easy to do by first doing what we did before. Do what we normally do before trying something new so that we can adopt new ways of working easier. To put it in another way, repeating our past actions or pattern can put us at ease before doing a new set of actions or new pattern of actions. That way, it'll be easier for us to transition to the new set of actions and pattern.
If we can't do what we normally do because it has permanent effects, like fixing a broken equipment, run through the steps that we normally do and predict the outcome. First be clear on the goal of our actions. List them clearly, separating the main goals versus the other things that are achieved along the way. Pretend to fix that broken equipment for example, and every step, note what would normally happen or things that we would normally observe. If it helps, work this out with another person. They may provide feedback to our planned actions. Plus, when we say what we are going to do, our brain processes the problem differently. Now we have a list of steps that we did before, what we expect to happen and what we would do along the way.
Then, go ahead and apply the lessons learned. Do that something new or apply the new thing we learned. We have the goals to achieve. Make sure at each step, we move closer to those goals. We also know what needs to be done along the way. Make sure those things are done, too. For example, when fixing the broken equipment, we need to inform another group of people that their equipment needs to be stopped at some point for us to continue fixing our equipment. Or take note of the reports that the old method generated and what the reports were used for. Then we can find where in our new set of actions, those same reports will be generated or whether we need to use them at all. In the end, we will know what we need to do for both the old and new ways. 

Breaking the cycle of a circular problem

I was asked recently about helping to solve a problem that was quite perplexing. It was difficult for this group of people to wrap their heads around it because the problem seemed to be going around and around. In their view, it was circular. Much like the chicken and the egg problem.
Let's say the problem deals with international advertising. They want to build a web advertising solution that is for non-English websites. But they are picky with which language to support and having problem convincing potential advertisers that enough "eye-balls" are out there for them to reach. Web sites in the local languages are reluctant to use the web advertising solution because they not enough advertisers and therefore revenue. This limits the places where the ads can be shown. Which them limits the number of "eye-balls" or the audience numbers. Not enough "eye-balls", not enough advertisers. Not enough advertisers, not enough participation from websites and not enough "eye-balls". And around and around it goes.
To begin solving something like this, the main strategy is to break the cycle. When people see a problem as being circular, they may actually be seeing something as a cycle or cyclic. Like with the chicken and the egg question, most people go through the cycle looking for a solution. It is no surprise they ended back where they started. Try taking a step back and look at the cycle. If the cycle can be broken, where it can be broken safely is where the solution lies or where the solution begins.

Saying "I have a problem"

Step1 is admitting that we have a problem. We must admit it not just to ourselves but to others who will be part of the solution. We also have to admit it to the people who are affected by the problem. But undoubtedly, the hardest person to admit that we have a problem to is ourselves.
The best way to do Step1 in the beginning is to just stand in front of a mirror and say, "I have a problem." Later when we grow stronger and more confident, we can pull up a friend and say, "I have a problem." Once we are strong enough, we can look at a problem and say to ourselves, "I have a problem" and convict ourselves to the next step, Step2.
Saying "I have a problem" is sometimes not enough. Sometimes, it can be boring. It can be repetitive. Once it becomes too repetitive, it can lose it's meaning. So to counter that, here are some alternative to "I have a problem" that you can use and take heart to.

This is an obstacle between me and my success
This is bad but I have been through worse
I need to get a hold on this problem and turn it around
This is a problem but I can fix it
This problem needs to be fixed now by me
Let's face it, this is bad and we can't avoid it anymore
I feel bad now but I'm gonna feel worse if I don't do something about it

Ideas Need to be Challenged

Coming out with ideas and solutions can be exciting. Especially if we have come out with great ideas that seem to solve our problem. We understand the problem because we defined it in Step2. From that, we have come out with a few good ideas in Step3. In fact, this can be an opportunity because we may have come out with something better than the original which failed or was creating problems. We may not only have found a solution to our problem, it may even improve on what we had before. We have come to the point where we now need to choose one of these ideas to do, Step4. And Step4 requires that ideas that came in Step3 be scrutinized and challenged. 
This can be hard, especially if we are working on our own. Each of the possible solutions we came up with is great and we can't see any other way to solve it. We need to choose one but sometime we become stuck. We don't or simple can't choose one of the possible solutions to do. This can stop our problem solving effort right in it's track. We know we have to choose but we like them all so much that it is hard let go any of them. 
This reminds me of something that happened to me in the late 90s. I was asked about what would be the next thing in PC desktop interfaces. We had just begun getting used to windows and the concept of Start button. I thought that because graphic cards with 3D were getting cheaper and starting to appear almost everywhere, the next step in PC desktop interfaces would take advantage of that. I proposed the future PC desktop environments would be in 3D. If Microsoft requires PCs to have 3D capabilities, PC makers would then make it a standard. This is good for them because it would make people to want new PCs. It happened once before with CD-ROM drives, so why not 3D graphic cards?
My design was based on the concept that the desktop would exist in a 3D world. Application windows would "float" in the air above a horizon. By moving within the 3D world, you would move and zoom in and out of the windows. For example, if you are working on a spreadsheet and you want to see another document, you can "move backward". This would make the spreadsheet window smaller (because it's "further" away) and it's contents smaller but still visible. Now you can open a document at the "normal" size and cut and paste in between them as you would normally do.
A horizon on the bottom of the screen would create the idea of land. It would move according to your movements within the world. I thought that it would also have features like hills and bodies of water create the idea of unique places within the 3D world. These places could be used to group windows. For example, a horizon with a lake is where we could do graphics work while a horizon with a cityscape where I could put my spreadsheets windows.
So what's the point I'm trying to make here?

Apologies for Post Problems

I apologize for not posting sooner. I had a little accident with Blogger which wiped out a few posts. If you are interested, you can read about how Blogger ate my posts. This was the published post that was affected.

Identifying The Pressure

When dealing with problems, sometimes there will be stresses felt. Dealing with stress means dealing with it's main cause: pressure. Specifically, pressures that happen as we solve problems. To relieve stress, we can address the way we handle stress or the way we deal with the pressure.  We touched on dealing with pressure before. It is important to identify what or where that pressure is coming from early on during the process. More importantly, we need to know whether the pressure we are feeling is pressure of the problem or pressure solving the problem.  
It could be clear once we take a few minutes to think about it.
Basically, pressure caused by the problem are caused by the effects of the problem. Essentially, what the problem is doing or causes. This pressure is directly caused by the problem. For example, if something isn't working and it's causing delays in shipping, the pressures of finding a solution or workaround is "pressure of the problem". There is one way to tackle this. Identify what specifically is causing the pressure, whether they are making things worse or whether they can be ignored. If they can be ignored safely, do so because solving the problem will make them go away anyway. If ignoring the pressure makes the problem worse, you may need help in minimizing the overall effect as way to help reduce the pressure. If you can't solve the problem right now, at least reduce the problem effects and the pressure it creates. Some help may be needed  to do this while you are solving the problem itself. 
Pressure can also be caused by the effort to solve a problem. This is usually about dealing with the constraints. These are limits that possible solutions have to fit within. It is also about resource management. What are the resources we need to solve the problem? Given unlimited time and other resources, all problems are solvable. It is when there are limits to these resources that make problem solving a challenge. And there will always be limits.
There are two possible approaches.

Getting the Right Answer Needs the Right Question Part 2

Continued fromGetting the Right Answer Needs the Right Question... Part 1.

On the other end of the scale is under-thinking or not thinking about the question at all. Under-thinking will also give us the wrong question. The tendency is to not think at all and ask the questions we normally ask. We ask these questions not because of any specific reason. We ask them on autopilot and we have an expectation of the answer. Sometimes, it is a force of habit. We are just used to using these questions in that particular situation. This short-hand can be useful as a starting point but again the same principle applies, think whether will the question being asked give us the answer we need. We need to think about the question, the answers it may give and whether those answers are the ones we are looking for.
Using the questions that are normally used or automatically asked have a tendency to yield roughly the same answer. If the answers given haven't provided us with a good solution, perhaps it's time to ask different questions. There are several techniques that we can use as a starting point to re-approach a question
  • Change the focus of the question. If the question is general, make it more specific. If the question is more specific, make the question more general. For example, rather than asking what we tool we need, refocus on the more general goal of the purpose of the tool. Ask how can we do the job better or how can we do the job without the tool. If the question focused on the more general goal of achieving success, refocus on how to reach specific goals that define the success. 
  • Change the context. If the question is narrow, make the new question cover a wider area and areas that are noramlly off-limits to the question. Rather than trying to solve just that one part of the problem, ask the questions that will solve several pieces at the same time. Sometimes, the solution or at least a part of it, lies with other people. Another method is to remove information or change perspective of the question. Instead of asking how the task is supposed to executed, ask how should the task be executed.
  • Flip it / work backwards. Normally, we define the solution criteria and ask what would yield them or what would fit. Try reversing the process and look at the possibilities available and how each of them would fit as a solution. Rather than trying to come out with something new or something ideal, use the options available to us at that time and situation. The options can be evaluated individually and in combination. This is very useful when there is little time and few resources. By doing it this way, we can be open to other solutions that we normally wouldn't be thinking about.

Book Review of Brain Rules: Making Our Brains Work Better without an Upgrade

I was always fascinated in how the brain works. When first helping others start to use computers in their daily life, the first explanation that I gave was that the CPU was the "brains" of the computer. The analogy worked for a while. Even as users questioned as to how the computer worked, there were other parallels related to the brain or it's concepts. There was the memory, the input (our senses) and the output (our reactions and communication). However, it was an accepted fact that although the computer is faster, the human brain is much more complex and capable than the computer's brain.
Computer engineers also looked to the brain for inspiration. They introduced concepts like short term and long term memory. They were able to make computers think less accurately through fuzzy logic. And they made computers smaller and faster. But they still realized that they were far away from being able to recreate how the brain works.
When I realized my son has a mild learning disability, I became even more interested in understanding how the brain works. Not only, was I interested because I wanted to know more. I now wanted to know what I can do with that knowledge.
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School does not try to explain in detail how the brain works. It's main purpose is to bring the science of the understanding of the brain back to the people who own one. Dr. John Medina tries to make that knowledge useful for the rest of us. While the realm of understanding the brain is dominated by scientists, there is no reason why we can't benefit from that understanding. Rather than just focusing on finally understanding how exactly the brain works, scientists should also try to help normal people use the knowledge the scientists already have so far to make their lives better. Better still, use that knowledge to make other people's lives better.

Begin managing change by accepting change

Achieving optimal organizational management requires strong leadership. Strong leadership may achieve initial success but a strong management can sustain that level of success and meet oncoming challenges and a changing business environment. One of the most important skills for management is managing change. But in many organizations, there is a fear of change. And the fear is often subtle as well as deep seated.
I once worked at an office overlooking a major road into the city. It became a habit of everybody in the office to take a quick look out the window at the road. It was a force of habit. People would do that whether they were going anywhere out of the office or not. Sometimes they would pause for a few seconds. Perhaps to look down and feel smug upon the sorry souls in the almost perpetual traffic jam.
One day, a colleague looking out the window made a comment that the road was extraordinarily clear. I looked and noticed traffic was flowing smoothly for once. There were even brief periods where there was no cars on the road. His tone was of concern and he asked me what was up. I shrugged, said that I didn't know and moved on. The next day, the road was jam-packed again. We were walking together when he made the comment. He said, with a sense of relief, that road were back to normal.
I don't think he was wishing ill on the drivers that morning who had to wait to get in or out of the city. He was only expressing a sentiment we all have: we prefer things to be the way they are. When things are they way we expect them to be, we call it normal. It doesn't matter what that 'normal' is. In other words, he was wary of change. The concern was not on how a smoother traffic flow would affect the city. He wasn't at all thinking about how it's effect on the sanity of the us living and working there. His concern was simply aimed the change.
This is a very normal reaction. We are concerned of uncertainty. Change brings uncertainty. So it's in all of us to be suspicious of change. We have a natural tendency towards order, even if we differ on what order actually means to each of us. We like things to be in a certain way. Even when some people like disorder and prefer things to change, it would bother them when things stop changing and chaos changes into order. Change, whether good or bad, is always suspicious.
In Step4, as we are choosing the best solution to solve our problem, be careful of arguments against change. This is more so if we are working with others to solve our problem or if it is a common problem that we are trying to solve together. Look into whether arguments against a possible solution are based on the fear of change. While not all change is good, arguments based on the fear of change may not have any basis other than that fear itself. Sometimes, we don't like to do something because it will cause change or upset something else. We dislike it so much that we can't see the benefit that change brings. In fact, when we try to find reasons why we don't like a possible solution, we may not find any other reason other then the fact we dislike of the change that it brings.

Getting the Right Answer Needs the Right Question

Ask the question that will give you the answer you need. Simple, right? Why ask questions that don't give us  the answer. Common sense? Maybe. That statement wouldn't be necessary if we actually asked the questions that will give us the answers that we need. We don't pay enough attention to the questions being asked.  We need to think about the questions to be asked when solving problems.We need to spend some time on working out the questions that need to be asked.
There is a tendency to over-think it or to not think about it at all. The result is the same: The wrong question gets asked. The key thing to focus on is: are the questions going to give the answers that we are looking for?
Over-thinking a question will result in a question that will be formulated incorrectly. For example, do we ask the shop keeper how much sugar we need for the week? Why shouldn't we? They know more about sugar than us. We know that we should ask the people who know more about something than us to get a useful answer.
But it isn't about sugar, isn't it? The question is really about us or to be more exact, how much sugar we need. So the correct person to ask is ourselves. Think about how much sugar we have been using. We should ask ourselves when was the last time we bought sugar and how much. That will give us an estimate of how much sugar we will need for the week and how much to buy. We should also plan ahead and ask ourselves whether we will need more sugar than usual in the coming week.
The problem with the original approach was that we applied a concept that we know incorrectly. We wrongly applied something we know. We know that people who know more about something than us can give us the answer. Only we wanted to know more about us than about sugar. The store-keeper doesn't know how much sugar we need. They know how much sugar they have. Most likely, they will ask us questions. Based on our answers, they can give suggestions. In both of the correct approaches, we are giving the answers because the issue is about us, not about sugar.

Knowing when to walk away

When solving a problem we can get caught up in the moment. Sometimes the choices that we are aware of are not the only choices available to us. They may seems so because of what other people around us tell us. It could also be the only thing we can think of in that moment. Looking at the seconds ticking away on the clock only increases the pressure on us. Like the walls are coming in on us.
It is times like that this that walking away, just for a while, can be useful. We are not walking away from the problem. We are looking for space and time to think or in a way, not think. Time away from environment of the problem can offer new perspectives. During that time away, our focus is on something else. The brain is a wonderful thing. Even as we are focusing on other things, it is still processing experience and input that we have just had. While we go to get a drink or take in fresh air, it is still building links and associations. Think of it as our brain is subconsciously working on the problem.
When time is of the essence, a good way to get a fresh perspective and possibly change ours, is to find someone who has little specific knowledge on the problem we are facing but some general information on the subject matter related to the problem. They know something about the subject but may not be specifically about our problem. Begin by explaining to them the problem. They will have a lot of questions but that is the point. Their questions will not only make things more clear to them but also to you. They will provide an outside-looking-in second set of eyes to our problem. They will likely ask questions you may have never thought of. They may find options not yet visible us. Or their questions may sound silly but answering them will either eliminate options to you or maybe hint at different way of thinking about the problem. The very least is that interacting with them give us time for mind to focus on something else so that when we do look back we have slightly different perspective.
This process is moving us from Step3, coming out with possible solutions or Step4, choosing the best option back to Step2, describing the problem. It is still counts as a step forward because are become that much closer to a solution.

Book Review of The Myths of Innovation: Clearing the Air on What is Innovation

A few years ago, I was asked about innovation and what is innovation. Specifically, this group of people were asked to be innovative. That's hard when you don't know what innovation is. They were in a difficult situation. Everybody was talking about innovation and they may tried to describe it. But after so many different views and descriptions, they just can't seem to understand what it is. And trying to do something you know little about is very hard. It's even hard to fake.
The real problem was that the word innovation and the concept 'innovation' had been so misused and maligned that it would be really hard to tell them what it was they were looking for even if I could.
Then I focused them on why they were asked to be innovative. They told they they needed innovation and I found out why innovation was thought as the missing ingredient from their organization. Actually, their organization was actually quite successful. People went about work, things got done and money was made. However, it was all pretty boring stuff. People knew what their jobs were and how to do them. Senior management was worried that since everything was mundane, the staff would fall into sense of predictability or repeat a fixed set of patterns. They were worried that the staff would limit themselves to these patterns, to what they knew and stymie the growth of the company. In short, they believed or  were told that their organization lacked excitement.And they thought (or a consultant convinced them that) being innovative was the solution.
In reality, the senior management had mistaken excitement for passion. People didn't seemed to be passionate about what they were doing. They were also afraid that since things were 'boring', complacency had set in. People were ok doing their work, they were just not trying to find ways of doing better, faster and cheaper. In my opinion, they had not done Step2 correctly, they hadn't properly defined their problem.
In that process, I found this book and thought it might provide them with some insight. At first, I thought this book was about myths of innovation or rather mythical innovations. If the book gave some example of innovations and their inner workings, I could recommend it to them.
I was disappointed. The book kept telling me things I already know about innovation or the real innovative process. Instead of building up to innovation, it was deconstructing it. Then I realized my mistake. The book was about the myths of innovation, the things people thought were innovation or the things that people thought happened around innovations of our modern world. The book was suitable for them after all but for a different reason altogether, addressing the heart of their concern.
Essentially, it was about 'making sausages'. It revealed what really happened around modern innovations and the process that lead to them. It is not pretty. A lot of people assume that an innovative process creates innovation. It doesn't. Worse, our society tends to create heroes of inventors / innovators and simplify their stories so that it can be retold easily and inspire others.
This book uncovers the reality of innovation and innovators and provides a real look into what innovation really is and more importantly what it means.

Communicating Critically

It is hard dealing with problems ourselves. So why do most people choose to not share their problems? One of the biggest reasons is fear of being criticized. It's bad enough we are facing a problem and it's effects. Do we really need to hear someone else heap on the bad news? Especially once we have taken that all important step, Step1, that is to accept that we have a problem?
Sometimes we simply have to. We have to hear the bad news from someone else. Just to make it feel real. But also to get to the part where the good stuff is, the advice or help to solve the problem we are facing. However, if we were given an opportunity to give criticism, would there be a way to do it less painfully?

Dealing with Pressures of Compromise

Solving problems is stressful. Some of the stress comes from the pressure created by the problem. This is an effect of the problem or something the problem creates. Some of the stress can also comes from pressures in solving the problem. Most of the time, this is caused when dealing with constraints. Constraints to solving a problem are sometimes the reason why a problem is difficult to solve. It is when we know how to solve a problem but can't use the solutions we want to. We feel pressured to discard the solutions we like. This mental stress can be difficult. It is difficult to discard anything we like. Relieve that pressure by focusing on this: the solution we like would not have solved the problem. It won't work because of the constraints we are facing. Don't force a square peg down a round hole. Accept the constraints, if it can't be dealt with, and move on.
Once we have accepted that the solutions we like are not the solutions that work, we can move on to other solutions that may work. This process is critical and is part of Step4, selecting the solution. We will always aim for the best solution we can but given the constraints, we think we are compromising on the solutions.

Timeliness of it all Part 2

Continued from Part1.
Once we have determined the goals of the solution (Step2), we can start looking at possible solutions (Step3).  Then we choose the solution to do in Step4. One way to do so is to set the criteria for the right solution. The criteria for the right solution may be as important as the solution itself because we are expressing both the goals of the problems and the limitations that we have to take into consideration. One of the most important limits is time, specifically execution time.
A solution that is complete but takes too long may not be the right choice. Think of it this way: Although we can test all the wires to be sure, the bomb may go off by the time we do so. Maybe our problem is not a time-bomb but when considering the factor of time, it works the same way. We want a solution that not only works but works at the right time.
This leads to the question of a compromise on completeness or quality. We may need to sacrifice either or both to meet time limit. It just may be the best choice. However, the adage "There is no time to do it right the first time, but there is always time to come back and fix it again and again" should also be heeded. Consider breaking the solution into two parts. The first part is to meet that deadline. The second is to make the solution complete. We solve the problem partially to avoid other problems if we wait too long but we don't stop until the entire problem is solved.
The reality of it is that some people would view this as wasteful. Why bother with the second part if the first part already fixes the problem? It is important to try to communicate that the first part did not solve the problem but merely delayed the problem from becoming worse sooner. Or that the first part of the solution will itself fail soon. Or simply call the first part not solving the problem. Often at this juncture, there are very stubborn parties that would do anything to stop it there. For them, let's meet their stubbornness by refusing to acknowledge the problem was solved.

Practice makes perfect

The 5 Steps seem to be obvious to some of us. It just seems like common sense. But if you are following the 5Steps or doing this consciously for the first few times, it may be slow going.
The hardest is knowing when to start. We are often too caught up in our daily routines. Problems disrupt those routines. We get upset and feel angry or worse lash out. We forget to stop and take a deep breath. And do the first step, admit that you have a problem and the second step, describe the problem. If you are facing a problem, do this now. Please stop reading, find a trusted friend, admit your problem and describe it to them. If you don't want to share it now, say it to out loud to yourself. It works best when you actually say it. If there are people around, take out you phone and pretend to make a call. Then take a piece of paper and write your problem down. Describe your problem in the shortest way possible. Then describe it with as many details as possible.
Good! You are on your way to a solution. Now you have to remember to take these steps every time a problem troubles you.

Consensus is not a key part of a solution

It does sound counter-intuitive.
However, if you are working in a group, a consensus is not required to solve a problem. It simply is true, not everyone needs to agree on a solution for a problem for it to be solved. In fact, the opposite is true. In coming out with a compromise solution, a solution that everyone can agree on, that solution may not solve the problem in it's entirety. Think of where it came from. A solution that was compromised.
There is this challenge facing teams and groups working to solve a problem every where. The question they wrangle with is: how important is an agreement between all members of the team to solving the problem. The answer will vary from problem to problem. Most groups come to the immediate conclusion that a consensus is very important and often the most important thing. Some groups consider achieving the solution's objectives is more important than a consensus.
But the answer's contribution towards the solution is far less important than most people think. What is more important to a successful solution is ownership of the problem. Owning the problem means taking responsibility to define a problem, lead in the quest for a solution and steer the effort to make the solution a reality. Too many problems get bogged down in the quest to reach a consensus. Time is lost and solutions may not be timely. There can be always a difference of opinion no matter how small. Too much time can be spent on trying to reach a common ground.
What every problem needs is a leader taking charge and solving the problem  There is the key word. Leadership. Even when the problem is faced by a group, a leader must emerge to solve the problem or will emerge by the time the solution is finished. Every group will have people who follow and those who lead or at least want to. A leader here is not one person per se but could also be different people at different stages or according to their capabilities. The leader will be defined not only their ascendancy but also by the followers who choose them. Members of a group must be ready to take on the challenge of leadership and the challenge of being a contributing team member. The scope of how to become that leader is beyond the scope of this post and will be touched on in the future. But it's worth noting that the first step that a leader should take is acknowledge the members of his team and the roles they play.
By refocusing your energy on either taking charge or following and working with the leader, it will ensure the effort to solve the problem keeps moving forward towards the solution.


I would like to apologize for not posting in the past few weeks. Life overtook everything else and I simply could not squeeze time to finish off posts. The drafts keep piling up and hopefully this will mean an avalanche of posts.
Things have slowed down somewhat so that I can start posting again. Thank you for visiting and I hope these posts have helped.