Just Call Me "Grumpy"

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I’ve been called a lot of things in my time, most of which I don’t care to repeat here (OK, OK … some people have called me nice things). I like to think of myself as a nice guy who has a good sense of humor, but I’m acutely aware of the fact that I can often be a grump, or a grumpus, or just plain grumpy. And while being grumpy doesn’t always help get things accomplished, there are times when it can be an effective tool.

For example, this week I was part of a discussion about terminology. Well, at the beginning I was a part of the discussion … and then the debate started to go in circles. The group was talking about the subject, but we weren’t making any progress. As I like to say, we were spending a lot of time and energy working in a circle, but we weren’t making any forward progress. So, I took a back seat. And then I got tired of riding in the back seat and put on my grumpy hat.

I sent a message that effectively said “jeez, quit talking about it — pick a solution, explain it, and move forward using it consistently.” Was it the best way to approach the situation? Was it even a good way to approach it? You could certainly argue either way, and I’d probably agree with either answer. What I found, though, is that my grumpy reply may have been just the thing that the team needed to get back on track.

I’ve found that teams often get off track by trying to find the answer, rather than an acceptable answer. People often call the situation “analysis paralysis” or “going down a rabbit hole” on a topic. The fact that we have so many terms to describe the condition suggests just how common it is. And in these situations, I prefer to take an approach that I’ve heard called “satisficing” — finding a solution that’s good enough. And in our business, we usually don’t have enough information to pick the answer, but we have enough to be directionally correct and keep moving in a productive way.

Some might refer to this approach as simply lobbing a hand grenade into the fray and then watching things blow up. And sometimes it might turn out that way — so I don’t recommend this approach in all situations. However, when your team is stuck and doesn’t recognize it, the time might be right for a grumpy interjection. Just make sure that your grump is a relatively gentle jolt, not a hand grenade.

After all, it’ll help wake up Sleepy, it might pull Bashful out of his shell, it’ll make Happy happy, and if anything goes wrong, you can always call Doc.

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