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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Solving Problems with Good Process: A Short Story

My friend asked me to help her with a task. When I tried to help, we realized it was impossible.

She called me a few months later to help out in a different way with the same task. Again it was impossible.

I must say I was a bit frustrated that she had not come up with a better solution and so much time was wasted with a similarly ineffective process.

Then she called yet again. I resisted the impulse to help as I guessed it may not go as planned. She called again and again. I resisted. Then knowing that the right thing to do was to help out, I joined her once again only to find that the task, once again, failed.

Now what's a friend to do?

I was exasperated with my friend. Clearly, she was having difficulty with the task, and even more clearly my lack of patience, abounding advice, and frustration was getting in the way.

I put myself in her shoes. She had been trying for years to complete this project with no success. I clearly needed to hear her out, and then help if she asked for it.

We went out for coffee. I listened to the very long story about the project. I didn't offer help or advice. I wasn't frustrated or impatient. I listened and listened and listened. In the end, she said, "Can you think of a better way?"

I replied, "Well, I don't think I can think of a better way on my own, but I bet we can solve this if we work together."

"Why didn't we think of this before," she sighed.

"I know," I said, "It happens too often that we jump to solve problems without thinking them through together. Let's do it."