I like to solve problems, too. That’s what consultants do. Most often, we get paid to solve problems. At times, I like to offer these services for free. I might be inflicting help or problem whining when I do that.
I fly from Boston’s Logan airport. It’s an old airport, with a small footprint. Last week, I returned to Terminal C. Able-bodied people are just fine with exiting to baggage claim. There’s an escalator. However, there is no elevator at the exit. People like me, who cannot take an escalator have to ask for an escort so I can exit through the alarmed doors. Then, we proceed down a hallway of offices with zero signage to an elevator to baggage claim. (See, whining!)
Because I have a long-term memory of this terminal, I sort-of remembered how to get to an elevator. I did find it. I’m not like Charlie on the MTA.
I’ve complained about Terminal C in the past: the insufficient handicapped access, the insufficient signage, insufficient pre-check availability. I finally decided I would stop complaining/whining. I have an alternative: I will not take any airlines that fly out of that part of Terminal C. The aggravation level is not worth it.
I use a problem-solving loop as above to help me stay in problem-solving mode. I did that with an extensive discussion with various people from Massport and the airline earlier this year and last year. I’m done. If I try to engage them now, I’ll be whining.
Why? Because the people I can engage with aren’t able to solve this problem. It’s a system problem and they don’t have the clout. They can’t generate alternatives, try something to see if it works and continue.
I’m not sure who does have the clout. All I know is this: The people “in charge” have done the best they can. They added a single sign inside the gate area. They provide a grudging escort on demand. There are people at the end of the long hallway who could help, once we get through the hallway. That means my travel is just short of miserable. I prefer to have a more positive experience.
This is an example of a system problem, where the solutions I can generate are insufficient for the problem. I would need to engage other people to really solve the problem.
I am not whining now. I have decided to take my business elsewhere. A different option, altogether.
This is exactly the same problem that people have in organizations. That’s why we have this lovely quote:
Change your company or change your company.
In the first part, it’s about helping to change your company’s practices or culture. In the second part, it’s about you changing your company.
In my case, I’ve decided to change my airline choices. There is a system problem I have insufficient power to solve. Everyone I spoke with earlier is a lovely human being, trying to do a good job. However, their best efforts are insufficient for my needs. Maybe their efforts work for other people.
As adaptable problem solvers, we have to decide when we’re done trying to solve this problem. Instead, is it time to go meta, and decide if you’re whining or solving?
That is the question this week: What’s the difference between problem whining and problem solving?
- When Do You Need a Tool?
- Are You Attached to the Process or the Outcome?