The Animaniacs used to have a bit they called Good Idea, Bad Idea. Good idea: dressing up like a pirate for Halloween. Bad idea: dressing up like a piñata.
Aside from my previously-mentioned fondness for pirates, I like the dichotomy this recurring Animaniacs bit created. The second part, the Bad Idea, was always unexpected; thus the humor, of course.
Good idea: white water rafting on the Chattooga river; bad idea: bringing your cat.
Writers can usually make a pretty good point by showing extremes. Yesterday, after a brief nod to the Transcendentalists, I presented the train metaphor for a process map.
Good idea: questioning common materialism by pursuing absolute Truth through examination of the natural world; bad idea: using a train to get to nature.
More commonly employed is juxtaposition. This is the “strengths and weaknesses” exercise or the SWOT analysis in business terms. Such analyses enable the thinker to change levels of thought.
|S.W.O.T. Analysis tool diagram|
Either seek specific examples of broad concepts by identifying tasks and accomplishments that support objectives; or develop higher objectives by categorizing and naming existing tasks and accomplishments. This exercise tries to help users take what they have – either broad strategy or narrow tasks – and tease out some further meaning and understanding.
Good idea: carefully map a route from one point to another; bad idea: fail to identify the mode of transportation.
In their book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton argue that there is no bad strategy. In fact, they accuse most companies of having the same strategy: reduce expenses, move into markets with better margins, and maximize existing resources. The failure, they say, comes in executing said strategy.
Make it Work
So as a business analyst it’s my job to design execution. It’s my job to ask people the question I frequently ask of myself: is what you’re doing right now moving you closer to your goals?
I imagine, like the piñata, those failed executions are made up of good intentions. Perhaps they simply lacked the necessary data to make the right decisions. (Didn’t they know a piñata would get beaten with a stick?) Pfeffer and Sutton suggest such evidence is frequently ignored as businesses continue along their chosen paths of What-We-Have-Always-Done and The Way Things Are.
If we juxtapose where we are with where we want to be, we can find a lot of reasons as to why the two are not the same place. Some of those reasons require that we change our environment; some require that we change our habits; some require that we change ourselves.
Good idea: figuring out what’s wrong; bad idea: figuring out it’s me.