Archive for the ‘Things I have found to be true’ Category

Things I have found to be true #1

A life lesson that I learned the hard way is this:

If I’m right about something it should easily to convince somebody of my point of view.

Now, “easy” might mean doing some research and writing up a small Word document if it’s a professional disagreement at work.   It almost certainly means understanding the other person’s context:  their point of view, their understanding of the way things work and ought to work, and the constraints they have to work within and why those constraints are there (and if they  can possibly be removed, often with creative thinking or brining somebody else into the discussion and repeating this process).

For example, I had a disagreement with boss  about something.  Before I tried to convince them I was right, I first asked lots of questions to understand why he thought he was right.  I didn’t know the constraints the boss was working under, but I knew that their boss and the boss’s boss were often dogmatic about technology, and I respected the boss as a very intelligent person that always tried to make the best decisions (yes, it was great working with this gentleman!)  So I worked hard to understand his constraints.

Mountain boyOnce I understood his context, I realized two things:  1. his understanding of the technologies in question was slightly incorrect (he is after-all the boss and slightly removed the technology after 20 years in management) and 2.  he was rightly concerned about alignment with strategic technology direction, a few other projects that were doing something similar, larger scale, security initiates  and how my suggested technology would worth within those constraints, etc.  With that deeper understanding of the problem and solution criteria I did some research, wrote up a small Word document that outlined at a high level how two technologies worked, the pros and cons of both approaches and presented a summary evaluation of both technologies against a more complete set of criteria than I had originally been aware of.  In the end we almost always chose the right technology.

This actually happened about 20 times in the 4 years that I had the pleasure of working with this gentleman, and sometimes the technology I had suggested was the better choice, and sometimes once I understood everything better my original thinking was wrong.  Thus, this life lesson has an inescapable and important corollary:

If, after correctly understanding the complete problem, understanding all the solution criteria and understanding any other constraints, my original point of view may be wrong.  However, that’s okay because we can now choose the right solution together.

And a few times, my original thinking was right, but artificial, capricious and immutable constraints defined by the boss’s boss’s boss (etc) meant that we couldn’t do the right thing, so we chose the best thing we could under the circumstances.

PS.  The dogma clause

Obviously sometimes the constraints the other person is working within are their own personal dogma, and therefore absolutely preclude any ability to change their mind regardless of any amount of evidence.  Hopefully (and usually?) this is not the case in a professional setting like work.  I therefore cast out such situations as obviously not applicable to a professional discussion like this one is pretending to be.  I also make it a rule to try my best to avoid issues with people whose personal dogma on the issue overrides evidence.  However, it does happen even at work (as it the case with the boss’s boss’s boss etc above).  I have found the best solution in such situations is to politely say that you’ll have to agree to disagree, then do what they are asking while looking for another job…