Monday, 27 August 2018

Problem Solving - A hands-on Workshop

Caveat: You will see and read the word 'problem' many times :)

For over eight months of inactivity, I took the role of an independent test consultant this year in June. To say the least, I went through a phase of depression. Absolutely did nothing in this time period that made me feel alive, this was only adding to the sorrow. But thankfully I found what my calling is by the end of this traumatic phase with the help of an excellent coach Selena Delesie and friends from the testing community. I alone couldn't have navigated safely through it all and I did realize post this phase, that I feel the most alive when am learning, helping myself and others along this journey. And most importantly I learned what do I need to do next, what work helps me to be content with and solved many of the problems I had personally and professionally.

It was at the end of July that Ajay Balamurugadas asked me to do a workshop and co-present with him on the topic: Problem-Solving. Having spent over eight months solving the problems I had faced until then, I accepted to do this workshop and share the lessons learned. This was also the phase when I was ready and was equipped to move ahead as I had embraced life-enhancing disciplines and habits that were showing results in the form of good overall health.

We began to work individually on the slides and met only on the day of the workshop which also happened to be a national holiday, Indian Independence Day. As Ajay wrote in his blog, it was a grand experience to run the workshop and alongside with him. The participants involved a student, a new mother and working IT professionals who all had different challenges. As Jerry Weinberg rightly puts it we found that All problems are people problems. We prepared for the exercise, examples, use cases, problematic situations we had faced, solutions, not solving as an option, emphasizing and de-emphasizing where it's required, book references, slides, hand-outs, content for problem creation, identification and understanding, contexts of a problem, solutionizing, tools, techniques, tips, traps in problem-solving and in no time. It felt like a breeze.

Ajay called me this week to convey how the participants benefitted from this workshop, that we co-presented. One participant enthusiastically shared that he had solved few problems encountered at his workplace post this hands-on workshop.

We learned:
Problems can be solved by a better understanding of it.
Understanding the context of the problem is necessary to seek a better solution.
Different contexts that we need to be aware of when problem-solving are: the problem owner's, resolver's, solution seeker's context, who are affected by solving and who benefits if the problem remains unsolved.
Do size up the problem well.
Know what traps barricades you from solving it.
Don't solve it, delegate it, move out of the equation when needed.
Not all problems need to have a solution.
A problem can have more than one solution, suit yourself with what best fits you and your ecosystem.
Tough problems with simple solutions exist.
Permanent and easy solutions to the toughest problems exist.
Hasten to learn and be curious and abort the mission when it is required to.
Time your problems - they all need a target date.
Don’t let problems co-exist with you.
Make more room for solutions - paid/free.
Equip and then engage in problem-solving.
Escape a problematic situation/people - this is one of the solutions.
Make peace with solutions, they may not be the desirable ones.
Accept success and failed attempts, as one of the outcomes of your genuine effort. Embracing the result is a part of the solution.

Happiness comes from problem-solving ~ Mark Manson

As I type this, we are on to the preparations for our next workshop. If you are in Bangalore and wish to be a part of this learning, look out for announcements on

Through this all I am learning to:
Self-organize - Trello and Google Keep are my go-to tools to organize a lot of my findings, learnings. I have taken notes every day since I got over the tough phase. A glance at the organized boards, help me learn what my interests really are, where should I invest my time, and more benefits I notice as the data builds up in these data collectors.
Invest in self-care - The most important topic that Selena helped me with is to invest in Self-Care. Do more of what helps, makes you and less of what doesn't define you.
Being back to work, running the workshops and learning from many defines me and helped me to connect with myself and am raring to go.

Book reference/Optional reading
Amplifying Your Effectiveness ~ Solving Other People's Problems by Don Gray.

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