Monday, July 5, 2010

What do you want?

Seth Godin's recent blog entries have been resonating with me, especially his most recent offering. I've always been a "cut to the chase" kinda guy, but that has been amplified by The Disease. It's not that I'm brutal or impatient with people, but I have been tending to be able to see far closer to the end of the road, since The Disease, and sometimes that makes for ... interesting... situations.

I had a discussion with some of my friends, about some project they were involved in at their workplace (details don't matter, I'm leaving them out to better "cut to the chase").

"We're working on a big Buzzword Initiative," they said. You know the sort of buzzwords that get tossed around at such times.

"How do you define 'buzzword'?" I asked them.


"From what I know of your organization, you already have plenty of Buzzword, and I can see that just by looking at x, y, and z. What is it that you're doing incorrectly now, that you want to do differently to achieve more Buzzword, and how are you going to change things?"


As my beloved teacher Eugene Burger says, "How will you know that you've gotten what you wanted if you don't know what you want?" Fortunately, I didn't have anything to do with said Buzzword project... and a good thing, too; I heard that a lot of meetings were held, many initiatives were undertaken, many events were scheduled and occurred, more meetings were held (just in case, I guess) and everyone felt good about having been so busy and done so much.

Except I don't think they know what they did, besides be busy. No one has yet told me what, if anything, was accomplished. What improvements were made... or, frankly, even if any changes were made.

I try to "play the MS card" rarely if ever, at my own workplace, but one of the only ways I play it is to tell them that if they have a question, ask me; if they need my help, I'll do my best to give it; but if you can't even describe clearly the problem you want to solve--or if you don't want to take the advice I give you, and you already know that before I give it--don't ask me. I only have so much to give, and I need to give it where it'll be put to best use.

And frankly, I'm always more than a little dismayed at the negative reception this sometimes receives. I mean, all I'm asking is that people decide what the problem is before they ask me to help craft a solution to it. Even if the problem is "we don't know what the problem is, but we want to identify it"--even that is a clear statement of the underlying problem.

Is that really so much to ask? Before you ask anyone, MS or not, to help you? Jesus said, "Knock, and it shall be opened;" but understood was the first step: pick the door first. Don't just stand in the hallway and call meeting after meeting about how doors (in general) aren't open, call it "the Open Door Initiative," and then congratulate yourself for having done so much work.

Especially when meanwhile, the door is still closed... because you never walked up to it and knocked.

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