I’ve been blessed in life with the opportunity to tackle a diverse set of me-stretching challenges. Perhaps I sought these out by saying “Yes, I can do that!” a bit hastily, but I’ve never considered a perceived-by-others failure to be failure. And I get bored if I’m not on the bleeding edge of something where my mind is straining to connect the dots between my experience and the latest problem in need of a solution.
Along the way, I’ve expended lots of energy capturing my lessons learned and trying to reduce them to best practices that could help others:
- Decision Management frameworks
- Decision-centered strategy and engineering processes
- Innovations in decision methods, e.g. decision patterns, decision-to-everything traceability and decision-centric roadmaps
- Multiple generations of software tools that put the power of these frameworks, processes and methods in the hands of teams and individuals.
It’s been a challenge for all these years to deliver these artifacts in ever-simpler and more powerful packages so they can help the mix of personalities involved in the typical strategy or design team.
I’ve been blessed to know some brilliant problem-solvers. Two of my best friends from college (W. and J.) were both first-rate thinkers. Our paths crossed frequently in Electrical Engineering, Physics and Math courses. W. was the master of do-it-in-your-head problem-solving and would generally finish a 3-hour (for me) homework assignment in 45 minutes. J. was the master of discipline and detail; he was sought out as a mentor by many lesser students because he could explain the what-why-how of every step of his solution.
I fell somewhere in the middle of my two friends, relatively quick at grasping and working through problems, but not with W’s speed or J’s rigor or mastery of understanding.
Fast-forward almost 40 years (yes – I had a slide rule, 4-function calculator and used punched cards in my freshman FORTRAN programming class) and I find myself straddling a similar divide. As a Decision Management and Systems Engineering consultant, I often find myself in a creative tension between the born decision-makers who confidently make mental leaps to an answer and the analysts who value process discipline, objective data and mathematical rigor.
When defining a new tool or designing a simpler process, I’m often reminded of Kepner-Tregoe’s three factors for situation success:
- Speed (My friend, W.)
- Rational Quality (My friend J.)
- Buy-in (as represented by two additional friends, B. and K., who weren’t brilliant students but who could orchestrate any collaborative project or social event)
As you might expect, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone’s problem-solving styles and priorities with any framework, process, method or tool. I’ve spent a few years of my life trying to refine these enablers so that they would scale more effectively and benefit any mix of people.
It may be me, but I see an increasing emphasis in today’s workforce on speed and buy-in at the expense of rational quality. There seems to be a larger share of born decision-makers and politicians around, while the few rigorous analysts have retreated much deeper into their specialty silos.
That trend seems risky in the facing of rapid technology-driven change and increasing system/product complexity.
What have you observed?