I am all for action. Frankly, my bias is toward digging in and starting work rather than developing a detailed action plan of what needs to be done. That being said, in solving any problem you need a general direction of where you are going and the facts about any problem that you are trying to solve.
Some years ago, I saw a technology executive in action during several “moments of crisis”. When all of those around him were scurrying about, he would retreat to his office for some peace and quiet. At first, it appeared that he wasn’t engaged. But quite the opposite was true. He was trying to assess the situation before taking action. Generally, he went through the process of trying to understand: What do we know? What don’t we know? What do we need to know? What facts are available to us that we don’t yet have? What won’t we be able to know no matter how much time we spend trying to find out?
It was with this background that he would develop several theories about what was wrong and what actions he could take to get more information to help him better understand the problem. It was from this that he started to work on solutions.
By comparison, others around him were making assumptions about the cause of the problem and proposing solutions based upon those assumptions. Often the actions they took did nothing to solve the problem and only caused a delay as their “solutions” were implemented. When they failed to solve the problem, it was back to the drawing board (or in this case, guessing board). The end result was that it took longer to solve the problem than it should have.
Whenever you’re dealing with a problem, it’s important to get a handle on the facts. While it might be uncomfortable to stop and assess the problem in the midst of a crisis, it is far more efficient than trying solutions that may or may not be appropriate under the circumstances. That way, you can be sure that your actions are appropriate and are improving the situation – not just providing action for action’s sake!
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