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Avoiding Tunnel Vision February 22, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I just finished some light reading – supposedly non-business related – only to have a reinforced opinion that there are connections everywhere.  Granted, the book being non-fiction automatically puts it into the realm of being about real people – and what is business but dealing with real people?

The book itself might seem of little consequence to engineers, managers, or consultants.  “Paramedic: On The Front Lines of Medicine” by Peter Canning, an EMT from Connecticut, is about his years performing medicine “on the streets”.  In the early chapters, we learn a bit about what it takes to become a paramedic.  One of the most critical items is to avoid the “tunnel vision” that accompanies arriving on a scene with preconceived ideas about what you will find – regardless of how the incident was reported.

It should be abundantly obvious that this attitude is just as important in non-life threatening situations as well.  It comes down to the question of how well you have been trained to properly assess your client’s needs and act appropriately, regardless of why you got the phone call in the first place.

Maybe you have been asked to improve the client’s profitability.  He doesn’t know what the problem is, he just has general symptoms: not meeting goals, poor morale, and lack of new customers.  Do you jump in and recommend a new marketing campaign?  Round up the employees to discuss “change management”?  How could you possibly suggest a solution without taking some time to understand the operations and the root causes of these symptoms?

You can’t.

To do your job properly, you must assume very little.  It is safe to assume that the company craves profitability, just as the paramedic bases immediate care on oxygen and blood flow.  But beyond that, it requires an in-depth examination.  The problem?  Neither patient enjoys being examined.  But you’ve got to get the gloves on and get in there.

Don’t try to solve the wrong problem and do more harm.

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