System vs. Component Improvements
I was lucky to be part of a recent movement at my workplace which aimed at transforming the company culture by creating a new approach to leadership. It is even called “Company On the Move”. The process started by setting an inquiry asking a somewhat unusual question, “what is already working?” This was strange and each of us was supposed to interview five people asking “what works?”
When I started interviewing few, the initial reaction was not so rewarding, and there was even a tone of sarcasm, “Aha, you think if you change the question from "what is the problem" to "what is working", you will be pleased by the answer?”
Educated as engineer, and being hired as a troubleshooter in my first job, I have had a pride in finding the problems, even we have a pride who finds the worse problem first. As a PhD candidate, your quest for finding the right problem is main part of your work.
As a troubleshooter, you are measured on how fast you pin down the problem that has crashed a system. That contributes to how fast one can isolate the problem and how fast he can recover the system.
With few years of collected experience in problem finding, we become expert in seeing problems everywhere. I remember a dear colleague of mine that would respond to every single statement even if we talked about the weather by answering “the problem is that ... “ and then add his remarks. This is a fantastic asset in technology based company, the problem is that ... wait, it seems my default analysis is engineering based!
Let’s change the tone: having that fantastic asset, greater opportunities, bigger visions, breakthrough innovation, emerging businesses are at reach and the steps toward those desired outcome is actually to build on what is working.
In technical discussions we also know very well, sometimes we are troubleshooting, sometimes we do component improvements, sometimes we aim at system improvement, and sometimes we look at next generation of systems.
Moving from the approach (find a problem > find the solution) to a new approach (what is working > what great vision you want to see > what are the steps to get there) is the movement worth experimenting with.