“No, that will not work. This is a requirements session, we need to come to some kind of consensus on what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.” The words came out of my mouth before the part of my brain that filters what would be considered the right thing to say could stop it.
I spoke to group of 400 people two weeks ago on how to run a project definition workshop. I emphasized the importance of getting support, agreement and commitment at the beginning for projects. A project needs a clear goal and objective, as other things will inevitably come along to fracture the team, shatter the schedule and challenge the outcome.
I was in New York last week attending a series of meetings defining project requirements. The facilitator started with ground rules and used the statement “let’s agree to disagree.” This may be appropriate for conversations waxing on about philosophy, but serves no purpose in trying to develop solution requirements.
Let’s agree to disagree only invites complacency and two sides to remain unmoved from their point of view.
Alas, that would not be my only outburst of the week. As we moved into what we actually wanted to achieve, there seemed to be a rush to a solution without a definition of the problem. It was at this point I became emphatic about the need to define why we were doing what we were doing.
Think about the VCR. Most of y’all are old enough to know what those are. There were some nice features that eventually got added to make them better. There were even devices you could buy separately to rewind the tapes at a very fast speed so you would not burn out your motor. The VCR was all about customizing your TV viewing experience enabling you to watch what you wanted to watch, when you wanted to watch it.
Now let’s talk TiVo. In 1999, Jim Barton and Mike Ramsay didn’t say, let’s make a VCR sleeker, cooler looking and in red. No, they focused on the challenge to enable people to watch what they wanted to watch and when they wanted to watch it. They created a digital video recorder that became a game changer.
“What are we doing here?” I said. “We’re trying to make a red VCR. Let’s have a TiVo moment! Are you with me? We have been doing this for process for 20 years and using this application for 5 years. What have we learned? What works well and what causes issues? Can we take 10 minutes to explore the possibilities? What is the “real” solution we need to provide?”
I am thrilled to say, after about a 10 second silence, the real conversation started.
There are thoughts and habits that lull us into a sense of progress when in reality, we only remain in our status quo, certain that we are correct. Is that OK? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. However, there will always be times when we need to think about a goal and revisit a strategy.
It’s the same in business. Moving from that current state, that status quo, may be a bit daunting. Business can become stuck at a transition state. A defined goal and purpose will serve you well. What are you really trying to solve. What will it mean if you accomplish the goal? What other possibilities now become available? Having those questions in mind will enable you to move through any transitions from the status quo to achieving the objective.
One day in yoga class, I was doing a wide leg forward bend. You reach your arms out to towards your feet and put your head on the floor and get a good stretch. My teacher, the incredible Lisa Jang (http://lisajangyoga.wordpress.com/) walked over and told me to go up into headstand. HUH, what? She said that I was strong enough, have the practice, and most importantly, I could do it. So, I did. I went up into what is sometimes called iron cross headstand or no hands headstand. Lisa was my push, my catalyst to move from the status quo to something new. For the meeting, maybe I was the push, the challenge to move from the status quo.
During my trip, I had a chance to meet face to face with my Americas team leader. I remember when I approached him about the position as a one-year chair assignment; he was surprised. At the end of his term, he talked about all the things he learned, what he was exposed to and new possibilities and he thanked me for seeing something in him, he didn’t see in himself.
Complacency lurks in plain sight lulling us into a sense of good enough. Consider situations in which you can be nudged into something new and times when you can be the push. Sometimes people see things in us that we do not see in ourselves, other times, we need to be the one to raise the call to action. Maybe it is worth it to take on another point of view.