…because some thoughts are worth remembering
“Bring me a rock,” said the boss. You bring a rock and the boss responds, “Nope, that’s not it.” Then loop that routine several times, where each time you bring another rock, the boss says that wasn’t the right rock, and repeats the original request, “Bring me a rock”.
Sounds ridiculous, but we do it all the time. Managers assign work without clarifying the goal or intent, set requirements or priorities. Staff accept the assignment without asking questions. Rock management clearly doesn’t work. The time you save in being able to quickly and majestically declare your wish is soon wasted in tenfold by work not getting done right. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of rock management because it’s easy to do (though ineffective in terms of outcome).
Another framework but easier to remember is what I call “Change from/Change to” (yes, someone suggest better term!). I simply make a table with two headings: “change from on the left” and “change to” on the right. I write down the behaviors I want to see on the right side, and on the left side I write out what the behaviors are now. There is no judgment as to items under “change from” being bad, they just “are” at that moment, a snapshot of the present. We all need to know where we are and where we start, and for any change to take place, starting where we are seems like a good idea.
The right hand side is important because we need to define what we want to see. Taking a lesson from dog training, it’s not effective to scold the dog for peeing on the furniture if the dog doesn’t know where the proper pee spot is, because after all, the dog’s going to have to go somewhere. It’s not enough to tell the dog, “bad dog” but to show where the dog should have “gone”: change from peeing on the furniture -> change to peeing in the backyard.
I’m sure there is research on why we focus on the left side of the equation, if we are not satisfied with the present/present situation. Perhaps it is emotionally exhausting to be dissatisfied that it’s tough to switch our mental gears to visualizing the behaviors/results we want to see. We can’t end with “Change from”. We must see through “Change to” before we give up.
Sometimes we only have “Change to” column filled out in our minds. That’s called day dreaming unless if we can accept where we are today, and as a result, map out a course from the current situation to where we want to be.
It’s a quick test to see if we are just complaining or if we are willing to make a difference. It works just as well in corporate strategic planning (e.g., change from serving local markets -> change to serving global markets) or debriefing after organizing an event (e.g., this year we filled the community hall -> next year fill up the conference center), as it does in spouse quarrels (e.g., change from going straight to bed after doing dishes -> change to bagging the garbage and setting it by the door before going to bed), or for new year resolutions (e.g., drinking 2 beers nightly -> no beers during the week).
Even better if the team/the other person in the conversation can help come up with the missing column so you get their buy-in.
The simplicity of the format keeps our promises honest, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Photo: Decorative metal plate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana