ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Goals and Premises

In order to understand the differences in points of view, we most often have to go back to the basics: 

What are the basic premises under which they are operating and what are the goals they are trying to achieve?

One story from my consulting practice:

I was shadowing the Chief Engineer in a transportation company one day, during my role as his mentor. He and I attended a meeting that was being led by an out of state consultant. Our roles were to listen – not to take over.

The out of state consultant was offering his conclusions as to where signal switches should be placed along the track for a new kind of train. He thought (for example) they should be placed at A, C L, and Q.  Another consultant (from a competing company) was saying, you are all wrong, they need to be placed at A, B D, F, and M. The two consultants went back and forth, “I’m right you’re wrong” without ever having reached an agreement.

As I listened I realized that their basic premises and eventual goals were different. The out of state consultant was suggesting switches that would enable the most speed. The local consultant knowing the terrain was suggesting switches that would create the most safety.

Each was right, given their basic premises and goals.

So, when we disagree with someone as to how they should do something, perhaps we ought to first learn what their premises are and what they want to accomplish.

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