perhaps in time he’ll get used to different birds

Adjusting to different pigeons: on dealing with the simply difficult

Author: Sarah James Willcox

Published on May 17, 2019


“They’ve moved me to a new office and I don’t like it at all. Different pigeons come to the window.” William Caldicote in Excellent Women, Barbara Pym

Two of the most important goals of working with projects are: getting clear on the key objectives so we can start quickly, and maintaining our focus on the task at hand so we can keep moving.

The problem is that it’s not long, given how teams and organisations work, before we run into complexity, and that slows progress. Occasionally we’ll find a problem that seems to call for a solution so complex that it’s almost impossible to implement.

So much that is related to change can be difficult and/or painful for the people involved. I wonder if, when it is, we try to reduce the discomfort by coming up with solutions that in fact add complexity to the situation without really addressing the real problems. Or maybe creating complexity helps us avoid tackling difficult situations.  Either way, in the end, it doesn’t help because it slows things down, adds more complications further down the line and takes up resources that could be better used elsewhere.

What would happen if, before looking for solutions, we included in our exploration of the problem a bit of questioning to help discriminate between that which is complex and that which is difficult:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Is this problem actually complex?
  • Or is it simple and very difficult?
  • What kind of difficult?
  • What can be done to ease that difficult?

How about asking these questions for the main problem you’re currently facing?

And William? Is his problem complex or difficult? What would you advise?  Get in touch  and share your thoughts.