Some discussion about the joys of Structured Thinking seems like a fitting end to the week.
Been chatting back and forth with a long-time reader in what will turn into a Peoplenomics report this week: The Topic is Retirement: Should I Go or Should I stay?
Got my tax bill advance in the mail this week: $750 for the year. Can’t grouse about that. Staying in the woods (at these prices anyway) makes sense.
While chatting with this reader – and following on to Thursday’s “What Gets Measured Gets Done” column, I thought it would be useful to have a short discussion about the intelligence of your boss, and in turn, the intelligence of your company. And of course, you.
Thinking skills are totally under-rated in today’s world. People don’t like to think, near as can figure, because structured thinking is a lot of work.
No, sitting around, sucking down a beer and passing a bowl, is not structured thinking. That is a different process called “Blue Skying.” It is only a subset of structured thinking.
Structured Thinking can be arranged any number of ways, but the gist of it falls into the category of process design.
Let’s say you have a terribly complicated question like where to retire and do I keep my business, or sell it?
Not a simple question, for sure.
So in the conversation (long emails back and forth) we kick through some ideas, I ask questions, and even offer my client book about how sales and marketing gets done. The how doesn’t matter so much as the whole Measure and Learn from the Numbers that is wrapped up in it.
Structured Thinking involves beginning with process before even really thinking at all about the specifics of the question.
One of the best examples EVER was Apollo-13. The question wasn’t so much Can we get to the Moon. The question was “How do we get back and what can we do with the parts on hand.”
Loved the story and the concept.
Yeah, getting to the moon was bitchin’ cool and all, but Apollo-13, that was best of all. It taught oceans and gobs about the American “can do” mindset. In the end, it’s one of two or three key values that we have sadly decided to scrap as a country without putting anything even half as worthy in its place.
Too young to remember it?
“Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.”
The movie was awesome and one of the few times Hollywood actually got something right.
Now, that’s the up side of America.
Which of the two candidates do you heart of heart think you would want in Mission Control during that? I will table that as being a question for you and God to work out.
But I will tell you that Structured Thinking is the stuff of legend and genius.
Most of the time, any problem in Life can be approached with it.
Steps I like include:
1.Problem definition. A very simple statement of “What are we trying to solve here?”
2.Goldilocks the problem. Remember the three bears? One said the porridge was too hot, one too cold, and one was just right. Gold plated shovels may be over the top, but a rusted out one undershoots. Which is why Frederick Winslow Taylor found 22.5 pounds per shovel full allowed an average working man in good shape to move the most raw material in an 8-10 hour shift in the steel mills. Father of time and motion studies.
3.Weight and Scoring method. This is where, before even getting into the problem solving, we think through what will be the stastistical method (say STQM, lol) by which we will score the answers we get? In other words, if we get the right answer, how would we score it so it really stands out?
4.Blue Sky All Possible Answers. We talked about this. This is where you list every option you can think of. If done with a smoke or a beer, might want to wait 8-hours before the next step.
5.Apply Scoring. Each of the Blue Sky options is in there. Score each.
6.Pick and Commit. The best score. That is what you are after. Take the best data you can get, do the scoring and go with what works.
If you have your “big girl/boy pants” on, this is called management science.
Now for the fun part.
How would you answer the question: Is my boss an idiot?
You know the steps and it should become quickly apparent that your boss (and the whole company for that matter) are idiots or geniuses.
I often offend people by trying to get black and white on evaluations of important business tactical questions like these. Reason? Wishy-wash kills: Kills time, kills resource, kills through opportunity cost. Often a quickly made decision – one you’ve committed to – will have a better outcome even when wrong that one no one has signed up for.
Which gets us to the Friday for the hell of it:
Apply scoring and method to yourself every night over a cold beverage. Vow to do better tomorrow.
Start on a Friday, and remember you have a weekend and if you don’t hav e two jobs already, this is an excellent time to hire yourself, find worthy tasks (and Pokémon births aren’t on the list) so you can definitively answer the question Monday Morning:
“No, my boss is not an idiot.”
When you own your own life you are your own boss. The sooner people learn that and start acting as co-owners of their own employers, and Ico-owners of our own government, the sooner we can get out of this screwed up craphole we’ve descended into.
See you Monday….. Where to Play the End Game is on tap for Peoplenomics readers tomorrow. Gentle reading after our Wednesday nightmare…but like hamburger joint said “You deserve a break today” and we have much antenna work to get done.
And yeah…a retired Major and a business process fanatic…should be an interesting weekend, indeed.
Drop by Monday: Re-engineering prepper’s canned food is “on the menu.”
Write when you get rich,