Oh, the team will find that too hard….


I need to blow off a little steam.

There’s a habit that I see around me all too often.  We propose a process improvement, and it requires the use of a tool, something like filling in and updating issue tracker tickets.

And we’re told by the manager of a team that their team will find this too hard.  Wait… what?

Programming is hard.  Driving is hard.  Cooking is hard.  Bringing up children is hard.  Does this manager think that his people – while regularly asking them to do the impossible – are incapable of of filling out and updating an issue tracker?  But that’s easy!

What is going on here?  What motivates people to keep demanding success while setting people up to fail?

Ok, I know that humans are designed to identify problems.  It’s what we do.  I know that the emergent design of evolution built us to survive by spotting the problem before it spots and eats us.  So what will it take to upgrade that problem-spotting mechanism to operate beyond the immediate problem into an assessment of longer term value?  We don’t live in a life-threatening environment for the most part any more.

So what can we do to help people see past problems to benefits?



Well, maybe this is yet another example of the need to ask questions, not offer solutions.  I’m seeing more and more the wisdom of hardly ever offering a solution until enough questions have been asked for the consumer of the solution to have already said out loud that they need it.  If that’s not done, then the solution can be seen as something to be assessed as new information, and what do we do with that?  We see it as a problem!

Have I answered my own question?

Let’s try it.

Me, what do you see as the problem here?

“Well, I see managers who don’t believe that their people can do simple things.”

What else?

“Well, it makes me mad!”

Why’s that?

“I’m offering them a solution to their problems!”

Ok.  But do they see them as problems?

“Sure, they’re complaining the whole time!”

Have they asked you to provide a fix?

“Um… kinda…”

Have you asked them if they see this as a problem?  And if they see it as an important problem?

“Um… not exactly…”

Right then.  Could it be that since you’ve not asked them, then they’re not thinking about a need for a solution, so when you offer it to them they just see it as another problem?

“Hmmmph.  Good point.  So the manager saying it’s ‘hard’ is code for ‘Don’t bring me another problem’.  Right.  Got it.”



Ask first.


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