There was a sudden silence. Nobody really knew what to say. Gina stared at her notepad and took a swallow of cold coffee. She felt frustrated again, but probably no more so than anyone else in the room. She looked up.
"Isn't this meeting just one more merry-go-round ride?"
Jaws, as usual, had been silent all morning. It was a nickname he was proud of, because it acknowledged that he spoke little, and that when he spoke, he always said something important. This was one of those moments.
"I'm not surprised we can't agree on how to do it," he said. "We never really agreed on what we were trying to do."
More silence, as everyone took that in.
Too often, we get ahead of ourselves — we start working on the how before we really agree on the what. Sometimes we do this because "how" issues are simpler, and sometimes we think we agree on the "what" before we actually do.
Whatever the reason for this inverted approach to problem solving, it helps to have a clear fix on the goal. Here are some ways to remember to first agree on the needle before you debate about how to thread it.
If you don't know where you're going…
- …you can't tell when you've arrived.
- …your latest failure might be a good thing — or bad — but you can't tell.
- If you don't know
where you're going,
you can't tell
when you've arrived…and if you don't know where you are, you could be in more trouble than you think.
- …it could be worse — you could think you know, and be wrong.
- …the size of the crowd that's following you might be a comfort, but you still don't know where you're going.
- …pretending otherwise fools only those who don't know where they're going either.
- …some of the people who disagree with each other about where you're going are probably right. But which ones?
- …you probably also don't know why you're going there.
- …it doesn't matter whether or not you're faster than the competition.
- …cutting the cost of getting there could be a waste of money.
- …there's no point arguing about the best way to get there.
- …there's no point arguing about the best way to argue about the best way to get there.
- …you might be headed away from where you ought to be.
- …asking for directions won't do much good.
- …going faster might be a bad idea.
- …going slower might be even worse.
- …following other people who seem to know where they're going won't get you there.
- …you might already be there.
Love the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!
For more on achieving and inspiring goals, see "Corrales Mentales," Point Lookout for July 4, 2001; "Commitment Makes It Easier," Point Lookout for October 16, 2002; "Beyond WIIFM," Point Lookout for August 13, 2003; "Your Wishing Wand," Point Lookout for October 8, 2003; "Give It Your All," Point Lookout for May 19, 2004; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; "Astonishing Successes," Point Lookout for January 31, 2007, and "Achieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action," Point Lookout for February 14, 2007.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or
assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
- Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: I
- Whoever facilitates your distributed meetings — whether a dedicated facilitator or the meeting
chair — will discover quickly that remote facilitation presents special problems. Here's a little
catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
- How to Ruin Meetings
- Much has been written about how to conduct meetings effectively. Here are some reliable techniques for
doing something else altogether.
- Patching Up the Cracks
- When things repeatedly "fall through the cracks," we're not doing the best we can. How can
we deal with the problem of repeatedly failing to do what we need to do? How can we patch up the cracks?
- The Risks of Too Many Projects: I
- Some organizations try to run too many development projects at once. Whether developing new offerings,
or working to improve the organization itself, taking on too many projects can defocus the organization
and depress performance.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.