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Unconstrained Thinking
-- Shooting from the Hip (Only to Hit Your Foot)

Forecasts, prognostications, guesses, SWAGs, and promises; which of these words doesn't belong with the others?

How often have you made a quick-and-dirty assessment of a situation "...unencumbered by the thought process" as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers might say, only to have your response come back to bite you in the hind parts?

We all like to look smart, be perceived as team players, and provide a can-do response to requests from our bosses and customers. Too often, this leads to being put in a situation where a half-baked assessment is taken as a commitment. In my previous corporate career, it took a bit of learning before I realized that in these cases, they always remember the "could happen" assessment, but never remember the ifs, the prerequisites, and the concerns expressed along with that hip shot response.

We usually feel pressured to provide such potentially dangerous information because we assume that the information is needed right then and there. Unless we're talking about an immediate life-and-death situation, there is no situation that will not benefit from a bit of forethought about obstacles and reservations. And the more critical the decision, the more forethought the situation deserves.

You've probably got good intuition on the subject -- they probably wouldn't have asked you if you didn't -- but give that intuition some backup from the other side of the brain.

Sooner or later, someone will once again ask you if or when something can be done, or how much of something could be expected. Allow me to suggest a universal answer for such a situation.

"Let me get back to you on that."

But be sure you have an easy to use process and a plan for getting back quickly with a response that you can live with.

Think about it . . .

©2002, Frank Patrick

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. - Francis Bacon

This is one of a series of columns on improvement, TOC, constraint management, change management, systems thinking, uncommon sense, and whatever else comes into my mind. Suggestions for topics are welcome. - FP, 908-874-8664 or via the contact page of this site.

If you are interested in using these 1/2-page columns for your APICS, ASQ, PMI, or IIE newsletter, let me know through the same channels, and I'll send you the more easily usable MS Word versions.

-- Frank Patrick

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Unconstrained Thinking Index

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