Tuesday, May 19, 2015

“Simple Problem Solving”

Planning for the future topic continues…

We’ve had several opportunities in the last couple of weeks to sit together as a family and exercise our planning muscles.  Here is a shortened list of topics:
  • College Admission
  • College Budgeting
  • Vocation
  • College Transportation
  • Summer Volunteering
  • Summer Travel
  • Graduation Party

For a little bit of context, my professional background is program management.  I am the planning pro.  I’ve used several very logical planning methods.  I have a professional certificate and a master’s degree in this discipline.  All of these credentials have NO applicability to planning with a teenager.  Don’t believe me?

I like to start out with a simple problem solving model [because everything we try to plan with a teenager is a huge life or death problem].
  1. Identify the problem or goal
  2. Develop alternatives to solve the problem or achieve your goal
  3. Analyze the alternatives
  4. Select the best alternative
  5. Plan action steps for the best alternative
  6. Execute the steps
  7. Evaluate the results.
Straight forward and simple, right.  Let’s get started.

1. Identify the problem or goal for your future vocation:

Ok, I don’t have a problem, but, well, it’s like, you know, the time when the Nazis invaded Poland and…

Wait.  Wait. Wait.  I thought we were trying to plan your future vocation?

What?  You asked me if I had a problem.

No, I didn’t.  I asked you to define your future work goal.

Oh.  Well, my mind likes to look at the big picture and there are a lot of messed up leaders in the world.  Do you think anybody ever considers the motivations of a dictator?  Did you hear about the mess in North Korea?

What does North Korea have to do with your future work?

Maybe I should consider going to school in Wisconsin.

Stop, stop, stop.  I am lost here.  I need you to give me a list of jobs you might be interested in.

I really should look into scholarships so I don’t have to spend my own college money when I get my degree in International Relations and work for the UN as a Diplomat.

Hey.  Look at that.  We are on step 7.  Good job.  [“Where is the Tylenol?” (Clark Griswold)]

And so goes nearly every simple problem solving activity.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

- What is your plan? -

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A “Little, Orange” Support Team

As we approach the end of another school year, attention shifts to things ending and future plans. This is elevated in the conscience of our house since we have a graduating senior.  Oh future plans, how illusive you are.  

“How can I possibly complete my college registration if I don’t know exactly what I am going to be doing for a career 15 years from now?”  

“My mind is so busy trying to figure out complex world problems, I don’t have time to worry about scheduling my placement tests for college.”

I love to marvel the virtuous thinker.

One of the keys to solving the future plans dilemma is to leverage the talents of more seasoned [old] advisors [parents].  Yep, I know what you are thinking.  Taking guidance from  parents is not natural for an independence-seeking senior.  Our senior is not necessarily seeking full independence; remember “Life is a Lot of Stuff”.

When struggling with future plans, the wisdom of parents can yield:
  • List making for tasks (especially when you loath lists) [quick quote-”Is that all you do all day, sit around and make lists for everyone else?”]
  • Methodical problem solving techniques (pros/cons, facts/assumptions, possible solutions, etc.)
  • Lessons learned from previous mistakes (and there are several!)
  • Feedback on skills and talents
  • Encouragement
  • Course correction (more than you would like, maybe)

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you realize that success is only achievable with a dedicated support team.  It is easy to see when this pearl of wisdom has not yet been realized.  

“Everyone else is the Oompa Loompa in my world.”

I guess we are a “little, orange” support team.

Proverbs 3:13-18 “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

- What is Your Plan -

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Burning Other People’s Opportunity Cost"

Part of effective planning includes counting the costs.  This is not only logical, it is biblical.  Jesus tells us in Luke 14:28-30

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

Admittedly this was a parable intended to explain the cost of being a Christ follower, but, if you will allow, I think it also fits with the more general point about counting costs in our planning process. It can also be applied to the less obvious cost consideration, opportunity cost.

Counting the opportunity cost does not only include the spender’s opportunity cost.  It also includes the opportunity cost of others since most of our plans include other people.  They also have an opportunity cost in this equation; specifically an opportunity cost in terms of time.

Sorry.  That was a lot of context to set up my point.  

Have you ever considered the amount of other people’s opportunity cost (OPOC) you burn through the execution of  your plans?  Maybe you’ve had your opportunity cost burned within someone else's plan.  I know some “talented planners” (TP) who can burn tons of OPOC.  

TP - “Will you help me with my assignment?”
Me - “Sure, when do you want to start?”
TP - “In a minute.  Let me close out of this other work first.”
Me - “Ok.  I won’t start my taxes right now so I can help you.”
-25 minutes later -
Me - “Thought you needed help with your assignment?”
TP - “Oh...Yeah.  Let me close out of this other work first”

Me - “Breakfast will be ready in 15 minutes.”
TP - “I will be right down.”
- 30 minutes later, with reheated food -
TP - “I have to go to the bathroom first”

Me - “We need to run to the store, do you want to come with?”
TP - “Sure, let me finish this game first.”
- 20 minutes later -
Me - “I going to wait in the car.”

Smell that?  It’s burning OPOC.

- What is Your Plan? -