All Problems are not Equal

Head Down and Headed for Cover

I’m an adrenalin junky. I keep agreeing to work with projects in trouble with incredible time pressure. Last Wednesday I agreed to help a project that HAD to be completed by Friday. The team was scheduled to fly home. We made good progress on Wednesday. Thursday we were supposed to clean up the loose ends, buff the application, and make a presentation to the “suits”. That was the theory.

I arrived early Thursday morning to get a running start. The team was scurrying trying to figure out what went wrong. Jenny told me “This isn’t a good time to make changes. The robots aren’t working.” She was already gone by the time I started asking what she wanted me to do.

Rudy’s Rutabaga Rule

Our physiology allows us to only feel one pain at a time. What hurts most, gets attention. Lesser pains get masked until the current pain goes away. When the current greatest pain goes away, what was the second greatest pain surfaces and we deal with it.

Rudy’s Rutabaga Rule1 reframes this into problem solving.

Once you eliminate your number one problem, number two gets a promotion.

Until Jenny solved the bigger problem, tidying loose ends and application buffing just wasn’t going to happen. And I’m OK with that. Eventually, we’d handle the ends and buffing.

Ain’t My Problem

Problem solving with people involves separating their problems from my problems. A list of other things to consider:2

  • The Pause Principle
  • The Pay Attention Principle
  • The Partnership Principle
  • The Passion Principle
  • The Person Principle

All’s Well That Ends Well

The presentation happened late Friday morning. The team flew home to Germany on time, and I’m still an adrenalin junky.

1Weinberg, G.M., The Secrets of Consulting. 1986, New York: Dorset House Publishing, p15.
2Solving Other People’s Problems

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