Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My problem! Or yours?

We all know customers don’t know what they want. But they do know what problems they have! During my work as an Agile coach I tend to come across numerous problems waiting to be solved. And eager as ever you might dive straight in to start solving the one you've identified as the prime one. The biggest, badest and most vexing problem you could see. Only the problem being, it might be your biggest problem, not your clients. We often try to listen hard and then create our own definitions of reality when we instead should do our hardest to understand our friend on the other side of the table.

I recently read a summary written by Don Gray at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness Conference about creating better problem definitions. He lists a few good principles which have helped me at work:
  1. The Pause principle: pause before you try to solve it. Critical when strong emotions are involved, especially when they belong to you!
  2. The Pay Attention principle: Intake, Meaning, Significance and Response. Meaning what I hear, what I think you say, how it affects me and my reaction or response to it all. If any of these four parts of the process goes wrong, the whole conversation gets distorted. Pause before going into response mode remember ;)
  3. The Partnership principle: find a solution that your client feels connected with. If you don't, your client will move on and the problem will be yours alone. You are there to help your client solve his/her problem.
  4. The passion principle: Don't care too much, at least not more than your client does. If he/she is not passionate about solving the problem they really don't have a problem in the first place.
  5. The person principle: who is this a problem for? Find that person and tailor the solution for them! At Don writes: "you aren't only dealing with the people themselves and the problem itself, but also gow these people feel about the problem, about each other, about you and about the attributes of whatever solution you come up with. And that is your problem".

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