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If you're not frustrated, then you're not working on the right problem.

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 01-03-11

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In my coaching, many of my conversations begin with a source of frustration by the individual. The source of frustration could be rooted in another person, or a team problem, or in their own abilities. But nonetheless, the frustration is there. This is a good thing. The philosophy that I’ve embraced is…

If you’re not frustrated, then you’re not working on the right problem.

Change is hard, particularly good change. It doesn’t come easy. It may require discipline, or sacrifice, or extra energy, or compromise. If the change was easy, then it likely would have happened already. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable problem. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should let our frustrations consume us, or even distract us.

Instead, embrace that frustration, with honor. It is a sign you are working on the right problem. It is a sign of progress. It is a source of focus.

How do you use frustration to your advantage?

Comments

  • This is a great call out. When I work with teams that are trying to go through the problem solving cycle, I look for that frustration. If they aren’t hitting it then I ask more questions have have them dig deeper. When they finally hit the point of frustration, then I take some time to talk with them and let them now this is normal. When they break through the frustration to understanding the problem and putting in countermeasures, I make sure to praise them a lot for the great work and then re-enforce that frustration is normal when solving a problem.

    Also, when I am using the 5 Why method, if the person I am talking to doesn’t get frustrated a little then I know to keep asking questions.

    Matt Wrye January 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • This is a great call out. When I work with teams that are trying to go through the problem solving cycle, I look for that frustration. If they aren’t hitting it then I ask more questions have have them dig deeper. When they finally hit the point of frustration, then I take some time to talk with them and let them now this is normal. When they break through the frustration to understanding the problem and putting in countermeasures, I make sure to praise them a lot for the great work and then re-enforce that frustration is normal when solving a problem.

    Also, when I am using the 5 Why method, if the person I am talking to doesn’t get frustrated a little then I know to keep asking questions.

    Matt Wrye January 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • This is a great call out. When I work with teams that are trying to go through the problem solving cycle, I look for that frustration. If they aren’t hitting it then I ask more questions have have them dig deeper. When they finally hit the point of frustration, then I take some time to talk with them and let them now this is normal. When they break through the frustration to understanding the problem and putting in countermeasures, I make sure to praise them a lot for the great work and then re-enforce that frustration is normal when solving a problem.

    Also, when I am using the 5 Why method, if the person I am talking to doesn’t get frustrated a little then I know to keep asking questions.

    Matt Wrye January 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • I’ve never thought of it that way, but its definitely true. Most real world problems aren’t as simple as 1+1=2 and teams always get frustrated. Teams always want to get the right answer the first time, but that rarely happens. I’ve always liked the quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” If a team uses a systematic problem solving approach they’re going to get to the solution eventually.
    -eric@aerospacelean.com

    Eric January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm
  • I’ve never thought of it that way, but its definitely true. Most real world problems aren’t as simple as 1+1=2 and teams always get frustrated. Teams always want to get the right answer the first time, but that rarely happens. I’ve always liked the quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” If a team uses a systematic problem solving approach they’re going to get to the solution eventually.
    -eric@aerospacelean.com

    Eric January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm
  • I’ve never thought of it that way, but its definitely true. Most real world problems aren’t as simple as 1+1=2 and teams always get frustrated. Teams always want to get the right answer the first time, but that rarely happens. I’ve always liked the quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” If a team uses a systematic problem solving approach they’re going to get to the solution eventually.
    -eric@aerospacelean.com

    Eric January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm
  • Hi Jamie,

    How true! Which is why I think many people choose not to work on the right problem – frustration avoidance. And, when folks do, whether accidentally or purposefully, work on the right problem, it ends up being much harder than they ever imagined. Then the self-doubt begins to creep in, “Maybe, I am crazy to pursue this. Maybe, the naysayers are right…”

    Mark R Hamel January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm
  • Hi Jamie,

    How true! Which is why I think many people choose not to work on the right problem – frustration avoidance. And, when folks do, whether accidentally or purposefully, work on the right problem, it ends up being much harder than they ever imagined. Then the self-doubt begins to creep in, “Maybe, I am crazy to pursue this. Maybe, the naysayers are right…”

    Mark R Hamel January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm
  • Hi Jamie,

    How true! Which is why I think many people choose not to work on the right problem – frustration avoidance. And, when folks do, whether accidentally or purposefully, work on the right problem, it ends up being much harder than they ever imagined. Then the self-doubt begins to creep in, “Maybe, I am crazy to pursue this. Maybe, the naysayers are right…”

    Mark R Hamel January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm