Have you ever found yourself in assembly hell the night before a kid’s birthday or the December holidays? What made it hell, besides you and your partner competing for recognition as the bigger control freak?
There are a number of possible answers. Of course it could be simply that the kit was missing that oh-so-critical #12 screw, or hammers and plastic don’t work well together, or even that you over-poured the vodka. (Did you really believe it would help you follow directions?)
The more likely scenario is that the assembly instructions were, um, lacking. Somehow there was a jump in logic, a presumption that the at-home assembler would just magically know that small detail enabling the correct progression.
The fine art of writing clear assembly instructions is a great analog for solving problems, designing process, or writing software code. (Disclaimer: The closest I get to coding is while working on my beloved Excel spreadsheets.) The challenge is to define the component pieces which, when put together, yield the desired solution.
Over the years, I have heard repeatedly that I am a “process guy.” Hearing that always made me nuts (well, more so). I never wanted to be a process guy. What’s the fun in doing the same thing over and over? What’s the fun in following the rules? It’s all about freedom and creativity, baby!
Recently though, I realized that being a process guy has made me invaluable to my clients. It means that I am good at figuring out how to go from Point A to Point B. It means that I am good at bushwhacking to find that elusive little cottage in the woods. It means I have the ability to visualize and articulate the sequence / series of thoughts and actions that pave the way to targeted outcomes.
So how do I do this? I believe there are eight overarching actions.
- Focus relentlessly on where you want to go / what you want to achieve.
- Remember what or whom you know that may prove helpful.
- Decide if it’s more comfortable for you to build your sequence going forward from where you are now, or backwards from where you want to end up.
- Consider both what’s needed to drive a process step and what you will get or know as a result of a completed action.
- Imagine yourself on either the giving or receiving end of each step. Can you imagine that? Could you personally execute the step? If not, why do you believe someone else could? If you’re still not feeling it, then that step needs further breakdown.
- Notice how often you use the word “should” in your process description. “Should” is hopeful, not helpful.
- Write down the sequence. Read it over. Do you believe it will lead you to the promised land? If yes, take action. Start doing. If no, fix what doesn’t feel right. Then start doing.
- Collect data as you go. Maintain relentless focus on the goal. If you feel you’re drifting off target, adjust. Keep doing.
There’s also a very important psychological component to all this. You have to be able to accept that any step may prove wrong. Don’t judge if / when that happens, just adapt and correct. Judging doesn’t solve problems; it’s a distraction.
Realize that every step equals progress; feel good about that and then keep moving.
But watch out for the vodka.