Monthly Archives: March 2013

#93 “It can be done”

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This phrase used to give me hope, even a “thrill.” Now it depresses and even annoys me. What it needs to do is give me cautious optimism. I reflected upon why this phrase stirs my emotions, and how I’ve evolved in my thinking, and here is what I found.

When I say “It can be done” or someone says it to me (the speaker), it means, “I’ve thought about the various aspects and I can see a path to the solution. I have the experience to solve the problem, or enough knowledge to create or invent one.”

What it does not give me is: a plan, deliverables, roadmap, risk analysis, budget, scope, service level agreement, quality level, and capability analysis. In other words, it gives me no assurance that it will be done in the time frame and to the quality I desire. I only get the illusion that “it will be done.”

Meanwhile, I (or the speaker) have declared victory and moved on to the next problem. I (or the speaker) forgot that execution is what matters. All solutions work on paper, power point slides, and whiteboards.

This creates a problem for two reasons:

  • It gives me (or the listener) false hope that the problem will be solved within desired cost, time, and be of desired quality.
  • Further commitments are made on the hope that the problem will be solved by me (or the speaker). This multiplies the false hope and resulting disappointment.

You can only imagine how much disappointment is being created on a daily basis with this simple phrase. My alternate choices are:

  • “I will do it.”
  • “Let me get back to you.”
  • “I see a way out, but I don’t want to set expectations that I cannot meet.”
  • “I’ve got some ideas, but I don’t want you to think I am signing up to deliver this.”

I’d love to read your comments if you have a better phrasing.


#92 Types of learning

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A co-worker and I got into a discussion about education, and the book “Hacking Your Education.” Talking about education leads to a robust exchange of ideas, and is a great way to waste time that is well spent elsewhere. It is an important topic, but nothing definitive or prescriptive seems forthcoming from debates and discussions. Meanwhile, we need to continue educating ourselves the best we can. A.k.a. “learning.”

During our discussion, the co-worker made a very profound observation: there is a difference between preparing for a vocation and developing the ability to think, and learn new ideas and concepts. Leaning one way or the other, without being aware of it, can lead to unproductive results. You could end up with a degree, but are not employable. Or you get a vocational certificate or diploma, are employable, but will not grow or realize your potential.

In my mind, if a person can develop several types of thinking: systems thinkingcritical thinking, lateral thinking, visual thinking, and, develop the “six thinking hats,” they will have more versatility than an expert with a deep and narrow expertise with facts. We need the latter as well, but the former will be more useful in fast moving work environments.

In the early stages of your career, you will probably do 80% training relating to hard/tangible skills, and 20% training related to “thinking,” concepts and ideas. That split has to reverse as you grow in your capabilities. A great thinker is useless if he or she cannot solve specific and urgent problems in the “real world.” A great problem solver will quickly become obsolete and end up taking less than optimal decisions if he or she does not develop the ability to think.

If your employer won’t sponsor you or pay for your learning, do it on your own time and money. It is an investment in yourself.  You’ll be worth more. Then find an employer who will pay you what you are worth and understands the value of both types of learning.