What’s the desired result?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004
Often, when I consult with clients about ways that they can use technology to enhance their productivity, I find that the discussion can quickly shift from the problem at hand to the technology that they intend to use to solve the problem.  This usually only makes the original problem worse.  Without a clear definition of the problem, and more specifically, what things would look like if it were solved, it is unlikely that a new tool will help.

I understand that it is much more exciting to talk about a new piece of software or a cool gadget than to focus on a problem, especially in the area of productivity.  I also understand that it is easy, even desirable, to get distracted in the tech solution and forget the problem altogether.  I've experienced this myself -- more than once.  Do not forget, however, that a tool -- no matter how many lights or buttons or features it may have -- is only a tool; it does not become part of the solution until the problem is clearly defined and the outcome can be measured.

I find it helpful to look at productivity issues from three distinct perspectives: Information, Communication, and Action.  Put another way, when defining a problem that is affecting productivity, I ask my clients to answer these simple questions:

   What information is needed?
   Where is it needed, and in what form?
   For whom, and when is it needed?  
   What needs to happen with it or as a result of it?
   How will I know that this problem has been solved?        

With the answers in mind, they are better equipped to define the next actions and to effectively select  tools, methodologies, and solutions to help accomplish them.  More importantly, they now have a benchmark so that they can truly know when they have achieved the desired outcome.

These are simple questions, yet powerful tools to help keep the proper perspective in the transition from information to action.

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