Tools: Weinberg’s Warning

“Whatever the problem, in whatever the company, I usually see the answer in the first five minutes – but it can take me hours, or days, or weeks, to recognise what it was that I saw in those first five minutes…”

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, says that standard slogan: which is why so many people try so hard to dress themselves up as something they’re not, and display the fact rather too successfully!

But here we’re talking about something slightly different. In fact it’s a good illustration of what we’ve elsewhere termed ‘the wyrd‘: the weird ways in which Reality Department shows us how it really works – but only if we allow it to do so, as Inverse Murphy indicates.

More particularly, this is an intentional use of the intuitive process usually known (and usually misunderstood) as ‘Beginner’s Luck’. It works not in spite of but because we know nothing about the client at the moment we enter the door. It’ll only work if we allow ourselves to be quietly open and aware at that moment – which we won’t be if we’re flustered and worried about what kind of first impression we will make! Yet if we try to force it, try to make it work, it won’t – Inverse Murphy again. The best balance we’ve found is to walk straight in, but with an almost childlike attitude, letting all the impressions of newness and strangeness wash over – and then grab a brief moment within the next half-hour or so to write down that sense of ‘first impressions’. What we note down may not make any sense to us at the time – in fact usually doesn’t – but it usually will before long!

We call this ‘Weinberg’s Warning’ after Gerald Weinberg, one of the great consultants of the computing trade, who described it particularly well in his book The Secrets of Consulting. In fact Weinberg took it a step further, and suggested it was not so much that he saw the answer, but that the clients themselves told him the answer to their problem – but rarely realised that they’d done so.

As mentioned above, this one’s from The Secrets
of Consulting : A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully
 ~ Gerald M.
Weinberg / Paperback / Published 1986.

Written after Weinberg spent some time working with Virginia Satir, the founder of family therapy, it combines both the technical and human sides of the consultancy process, with a remarkable clarity of awareness, and a wry sense of humour. It’s perhaps the best ever book on the practice of consulting – and fun!

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