Give me the fish, don’t teach me fishing!

In our fast moving, fast changing world, ancient wisdom may no longer apply. And chances are it is true.

There is this proverb with unclear origins yet sounding ancient and wise:

“give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”

I can imagine the old bearded man in white robe sitting under a very old tree on some mountain top, the wise hermit you come see after a long, difficult and dangerous climbing. You seek guidance and this is the kind of advice he gives you.

These were times when time was slow and a man had to take care himself about many aspects of his daily life.

Nowadays when someone asks for a fish, they want the fish. And they want it now. They don’t care about the details how to catch the fish, it is just about immediate satisfaction of the need of fish.

Why care about the fishing technique? In a world of interconnected networks it is enough to know someone who masters the fishing technique.

Nobody cares climbing the mountain for advice either, the wise old man is a digital native of less than 18 years and his cave is named Facebook, twitter, snapchat… you name it.

Why investing time to learn fishing? Maybe next month it will all be about deer, beef or strawberries, apple pie or orange juice. We can’t learn all the related hunting, farming and cooking techniques according to the need or big thing of the moment. We simply have to turn it to specialists.

Furthermore, when asked for a fish and teaching fishing instead, chances are that the mentor and mentee go into the technical details of fishing or the pro and cons of this and that gear, to a point they’re likely to forget about the initial problem to solve: getting fed with fish.

The final irony is to die starving savvy about fishing.

Where is all this getting us to?

Just as when a customer is looking to satisfy his/her need, he/she is probably not interested in the details, specifications and technical aspects of the solution, he/she is awaiting results. The same applies when a CEO or senior manager has a problem to solve, he/she calls in a specialist and ask him/her for a quick fix. The methodology used is of almost no interest, it’s about the fish (the need) not fishing (the means).

Therefore putting Lean, Six Sigma or Theory of Constraints to the forefront only pleases the promoter, not the customer. The later is asking for a quick fix, not a catalog of nice tools and techniques that might eventually solve his/her problem.

Looking for internal people to take over (learning how to fish), sustain and hopefully continuously improve tends to get out of fashion. With more and more disruptions in any technologies or businesses and the acceleration of all cycles, planning for long term is happy guess at best and long term a very relative concept.

A business owner, CEO or senior executive may not stay in position long enough to see the outcome of the teach-don’t-do approach. Even the long established organization may not exist long enough to think about sustainability of this or that methodology.

As a result, business consultants or special interest groups should advertise more about their results and achievements than their favorite toolbox to attract decision-makers’ attention as these are looking for the fish, not the fishing.

My hermitage is my blog, you can join the meditation here.

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Chatting with Bill Dettmer right after the Logical Thinking Process training, June 2016

This video chat was recorded the day after the second edition of the Logical Thinking Process (LTP) training in Paris, France was over, in June 2016.

I was fortunate to attend as part of the hosting organization, observer, facilitator, photographer and video director. The video setup was ready for the Bill Dettmer‘s LTP alumni reunion and I asked Bill to exchange our impressions about the course, in front of the cameras.

I attended the course as a participant one year before and as an observer kept impressed by the fast pace of the course, packing so much value in 6 days (2×3 with a week-end in between). This is only possible with the front loading (reading at least the selected chapters of Bill’s book) and having enough command of English for non-native speakers.

Watch Bill and myself exchanging more views on the venue.

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Logical Thinking Process training course in Paris, June 2016 in fast flick

The second Logical Thinking Process (LTP) training course in Paris was a 6-day course in June 2016 delivered by Bill Dettmer. I was fortunate to attend as a host and observer, photographer and video director. Here is a 2-minute summary with pictures I took over the event. The speed of the video is intended to echo the fast pace and high density of the LTP course.


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If making money is your goal, throughput is your obsession

In a for-profit organization making money is the goal and the limitation to making more money is called a constraint.

Conversely, a constraint is a limiting factor to get more out of the system. There is only one constraint which is the most limiting factor restricting the Throughput.

Throughput is the rate at which the organization is making money.

If the constraint is limiting Throughput, it means the constraint controls all the money-making.

From this point, making the maximum money given the constraint, there are two (cumulative) options:

  • Elevate the constraint, which means get over the limitation of the constraint to allow more Throughput.
  • Keep Throughput at its maximum by avoiding anything limiting it more.

Elevating the constraint might be difficult or even impossible to do, simply because if it wouldn’t, chances are it would already have been done. More seriously a constraint can be something very difficult to get or to change, like a very expensive equipment, something very rare or something very difficult to influence/change like regulation or policy.

Keeping Throughput at maximum in the given conditions is called exploiting the constraint. It requires constant attention to prevent anything to choke the Throughput.

That’s why once the constraint is identified, it becomes the center of all attention. If the constraint is a resource, like a machine, an equipment, a department or some talented person, this resource deserves a special treatment to protect it against anything limiting its Throughput further.

As the constraint controls all the money-making, it is a good spot where to literally sit and constantly monitor the Throughput. Every decision should be made with regards to its influence to the Throughput:

  • if it is reducing the Throughput, it must be challenged
  • If it is increasing or a least securing the Throughput without adding more Operational Expenses (Net Profit = Throughput – Operational Expenses), it must be considered.

Therefore, if making money is your goal, Throughput is your obsession.

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The Logical Thinking Process dynamics

In this short excerpt of the June 2015 training course, Bill Dettmer shows the links between the Logical Thinking Process tools.

The first link is from the Goal Tree to the Current Reality Tree (CRT). As long as the Goal is not achieved, the not-achieving Goal stated in the Goal Tree and the not-achieved Critical Success Factors (CSFs), which are Undesirable Effects, are inputs to the Current Reality Tree.

Next is the link between CRT and Evaporating Cloud (EC). A critical root cause from the CRT is very likely to be one of the conflicting entities of an Evaporating Cloud. The Goal Tree may also provide inputs to the EC.

An injection to dissolve the conflict in the EC is an input to the Future Reality Tree (FRT) and the desired outcome are the Goal and CSFs, turned into the FRT’s Desirable Effects, closing the loop and making the Goal Tree the key player of the whole Logical Thinking Process.

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What takeaways from June 2016 Logical Thinking Process training?

Being on the host and organisation’s side of Bill Dettmer‘s June 2016 Logical Thinking Process (LTP) training in Paris, I was fortunate to go through it a second time.

This time more as an observer though, with a keen interest in reinforcing my knowledge and watch others react to the learning, build their logical trees and interact during the cross-presentations.

System-level complex problem

Even if I am a long fully convinced LTP aficionado, it still is fascinating to see the principles and tools applicable to any system-level complex problem, like the ones brought up by the participants.

Complex systems, in the Cynefin framework meaning, are systems with interrelated causes and effects relationships, leading to unpredictable outcomes.

Benefits of learning in a group

It’s easy to get trapped in one’s own reasoning and this is where learning in group is interesting: those being blocked could get help from the other participants to uncover the flaws or missing conditions in their tree and go on. It is rewarding as well as a good opportunity to probe one’s own skills to help others out of a deadlock.

Cross-presenting the logical Trees

Cross-presenting the logical Trees

Beyond the group effect, I witnessed the synergy between two executives from the same company building their trees together, and those were pretty robust, withstanding most of the scrutinizing.

Beyond building good trees there was also a noticeable excitement as they uncovered new solutions to long lasting problems, and the anticipated thrill to test them soon.

This advocates for attending the training in pairs from the same organization whenever possible.

For those afraid of the cost incurred, they have to put them in regard to the cumulative costs of unsolved problems, including missed opportunities of revenue. Most of them will go up into the tens of thousands.

Therefore going back with a fully actionable solution and the related communication after six days only is (very) good value for money!

Hone skills afterwards

One key point to succeed with LTP after the course is to practice over and over.

One way I try to do it is to analyze newspaper articles and check the soundness of the logic when exposing facts and proposing a conclusion.

Solitary practice may reinforce and hone the acquired skills, but sharing among practitioners is a good way to enhance them by learning from others as well as an opportunity to calibrate one’s skills.

That’s why attending conferences and, most of all, Bill Dettmer’s alumni reunions is really something to consider.


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