7 November 2012 - Let me go back to something conceptual, which I think is important, and far too little asked in business.
I came across solution focussed thinking some time ago. I'm pretty sure I have mentioned it before in what I guess are the hundreds of thousands of words I have written here, but even if I have I'm going to do it again, and for good reason.
When you have a solution focus you ask yourself the quite simple, but incredibly powerful, question "what are the best hopes I have for what I am doing"? Now that might sound an odd thing to do, but only if you're not used to doing it. When it becomes habitual it is suddenly apparent that this one question is the key to prioritising most of what you do.
I have a very strong impression many people are clueless about why they do much of what passes for their daily work. Indeed, when saying this I recall a scene from a children's television programme literally from my childhood (yes we're talking 1960s: was it called Playroom?) where a person said their job was writing information on the green form, which they then copied to the blue form, which they then copied to a stick of rhubarb which they then made into a pie. They were asked whether having the information on the rhubarb improved the flavour of the pie and they said they had no idea; it was just what they had to do. My guess is that because I still recall it that scene had some influence on my desire to avoid meaninglessness in my work.
If, of course, the person in the previous example had the real goal of making a pie (I think I should add, I think they said all the pervious copies were thrown away) simply asking the question "what are the best hopes I have for the task I am doing" would make it clear that the best thing they could possibly do was to skip all the copying and get on with the cooking.
Now, of course that's a ludicrous example, except that day after day, occasionally in our business and very often in other businesses, I see tasks undertaken which have no obvious purpose.
That could be meetings for the sake of it because no one asked what the best hope for the meeting was and no one could find one.
Or copied mails without reason.
Or whole checking processes for supposed QC when candidly the risk of failure is so small, or the consequence so insignificant that the purpose of doing them could not result in any realistic hope of a changed real outcome for the business.
You get my point?
I even ask it of management reporting. What hope do we have for this data? What might it let us do?