Friday, August 11, 2006

begin with the end in mind

You've heard this before. The best way to start something is to know how you want it to finish. It's good advice, but not sufficient. Let's think about a fairly common situation. Someone comes to your office so that you can provide help or advice. You want them to leave with advice they will use.

The obvious path is to begin with the problem. Find out what is wrong. When the problem is solved, you will have reached the end. Beginning with the problem is one way to begin with the end in mind.

Except that version creates so many problems. How much do you like confessing your flaws, inadequacy and incomprehension? Me, neither. Once I've gone through everything that's wrong, I barely have the energy to lift my head and walk from the room. And the person to whom I've confessed? No longer my favourite person. No matter how wonderful his/her solution is, the next time I think of him/her, I'll droop. He/she might be wonderful, but I cannot be wonderful in his/her company. I like to be wonderful.

What if beginning with the end in mind meant that the pattern of the whole would be apparent in a condensed form in the particular conversation or even in the introduction. That would mean that I would look at someone who came to me for help, notice what s/he wants to feel at the end of the process, and draw that state out in the first few minutes. If it's a logical puzzle, I would ask about puzzles solved in the past. If it's a matter of style, I'd find something to notice that would make him/her feel stylish. If it's a matter of diplomacy, I would exercise tact as I drew examples of tact from the person in my office.

Once the pattern was established - the movement from problem to resource to application - it would be easier for us both to take the resouceful pattern and apply it to the matter at hand. Neither of us would have to feel like a problem in order for us to arrive at a solution.

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