In the manufacturing world, if something doesn’t work or meet specifications, you redesign it.  In the human world, someone is not performing or behaving as expected or doing what is specified, how do you re-design?

There are those who would have us believe, you tap into a persons core motivation and viola!  However, this presumes that (a) a person is aware and in-tune with their core motivation, and, (b) when you ask questions you will get answers that reveal what this is.  Bill Cosby has the parenting joke of the elusive “third” child: I Don’t Know.  No matter how many children you have, when they do something wrong and you ask why the answer is inevitably: I don’t know!?

Ironically, as adults there is not much difference.  You might get intermediate responses: I wasn’t happy, I didn’t understand, I prefer this.  When you press for why, more often than non, you get, I don’t know.  Where to go from here?

1. Don’t assume evil

When a part is bad, we don’t ascribe any positive or negative intentions to it, we just determine it hasn’t met specifications.  Are there people who intentionally do bad things in this world? Yes.  However, most people (95%) are not wired this way and yes this is evidenced based

2. Make sure you share the same assumptions

Two people can read a document and come away with very different interpretations.  Appropriate response is shaped not only by our upbringing but also by our training.  If I ask an engineer to define “structure” and I ask an artist to define “structure” I am going to get VERY different responses.

3. Become the change you seek

When things go wrong, the natural instinct is to blame others and try to change others.  However, you were part of the process as well.  How do you need to change in order to get a different outcome?

4. Invite action not dialog

Let the person know that specifications/expectations were not met, explain why. Without prescribing what you want as an outcome, invite the person to handle the same situation differently.  When things go wrong, both sides are upset. It is highly unlikely that either side will really listen to what the other has to say.  Inviting action offers an opportunity for remedy without polemic.

5. Be ready to embrace differences

Even when people are in agreement, no two people will handle a situation exactly the same way.  The same applies when there is disagreement.  If harm has been done or arises from actions, harm needs to be remedied.  In the absence of harm, the arguments will center on conformity.  Conformity is a two way street.  If differences are irreconcilable, you need to be able to clearly articulate this fact and explain why.

By know you’ve probably guessed the answer: you can’t re-engineer humans. However, by searching for common ground you can establish solidarity.