Roger Fairhead Certificate JMT Certified

It’s the way that you do it

T’ain’t what you do.  

Some years ago while I was managing a control system project, one of the smaller tasks was dragging on and taking longer than planned.  I asked the engineer how much time he expected it would take, and I was told “about 2 weeks”.  A week later he revised his estimate to be “about 10 days”. 

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~ Albert Einstein

Now, the solution I came up with was this.  Once this system was completed the customer would want to do some testing to make sure it all functioned correctly and according to plan.  Now, I knew that the customer was planning to use an engineer that was entirely capable of writing the code needed and that the testing would take them several days, so I suggested that I would give the customer back 2 weeks of chargeable time if they would write the code.  This would mean that they would be able to spend that chargeable time on other changes they wanted in the project, they would also save the time needed to test the code, and I would get the work finished at a fixed budget.  Everyone was a winner. 

In the 6S Implementation Framework for project implementation, one of the 6 “S”s is Speculation.  (See more in “PRIZE Winning Leadership” available from Amazon.)  That refers to taking account of the things that might go wrong in a project, and then considering all the things that might go right and yield some kind of advantage.

I heard a stereotypical description of the difference between us Brits and our American friends.  It went this way.  If you have a problem and ask 10 Brits what to do about it, you’ll get 10 reasons why it can’t be done.  Pose that same problem to 10 Americans and you’ll get 10 different ways of solving it!  Even if only half of these solutions would work then you’ve got five new ways of solving the problem.  It’s all about how we ask the question.  It’s not “can we do it”, rather we should be asking “HOW can we do it”. 

It’s not “Can we do it”,
rather “HOW can we do it”. 

So, if we are going to embrace both sides of the speculation coin then we’ll see that as Einstein said, every problem has an opportunity hiding within. 

Having said that, not even problem needs solving today.  Problems can be thought of rather like the pots on a stove in a restaurant.  Imagine that each pot contains one problem, some are still warming up while others have been on the boil for a while and are ready for serving.  In the same way, some problems are ready for solving right now, while others need time for a solution to come into view, and yet others are actually best left alone entirely and they will go away on themselves. 

If we approach each problem with the “HOW can I solve it” attitude, and then don’t stop until the solution is found, it’s surprising how many answers can be found to insolvable problems., and some of those answers can include a “do nothing” solution.  Psychologist Martin Fishbein calls this “the expectancy-value theory of motivation”, and asserts that attitudes are initially developed and subsequently modified due to beliefs and values.  The idea is that if we expect to find a solution we won’t stop until it is found, rather than abandoning the quest before the answer appears.

“At the lowest level of explanation, therefore, people are said to perform a behaviour because they intend to do so, they have the requisite skills and abilities, and there are no environmental constraints to prevent them from carrying out their intentions (i.e., they have favourable intentions and actual behavioural control).”
~ Martin Fishbein, 
Predicting and Changing Behavior: The Reasoned Action Approach

One such example was in the meeting hall of a charity I was working with.  In an accident report, someone had tripped over a loose carpet in the entrance, and the proposed solution was to make a more permanent fixing for the carpet. On further investigation, it turned out that the person that had tripped was a rather boisterous teenaged lad who had been running rather exuberantly.  Furthermore, the carpet had been in the same place for over 10 years with no previous experience of causing falls.  The decision we actually took was to do absolutely nothing, and consider this as a one-off, unlikely to be repeated incident.  That was over 10 years ago and there have been no recurrences of the problem.  The best solution to that problem was to do nothing at all.

Author and leadership expert John Maxwell suggests that we can approach every problem with one of two buckets.  One is filled with water to extinguish the problem, and the other is filled with gasoline and can cause the problem to escalate rapidly!  We have the choice which bucket we take to each fire.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.

He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.