My younger son came home from his summer job as a programmer
talking about a bug he had found. The
start-up company where he works had been using some code for six months, with
occasionally strange results. When Tom
found odd results using the code, he reviewed it line by line and found a silly
little error. Most of the time the
program worked fine, but it would occasionally report that it was functioning
correctly when it was not. Tom was
surprised that a team of smart programmers had missed the bug for six months.
My wife jumped in and told of a patient who had seen an ophthalmologist
twice, was not responding to treatment, and was sent to her when the patient’s
regular eye doctor was on vacation.
Knowing that the other doctor had performed two examinations and
prescribed the usual treatment, which wasn’t working, she knew she would find
something out of the ordinary. In a few
minutes, she diagnosed an unusual infection.
I recalled a bank that asked me to help them with their
strategic planning. The CEO sent me a
copy of his financial statements, along with a peer group comparison. I spent a couple of hours reviewing the
numbers, then called the CEO with my diagnosis of his problem. As I spoke, he agreed. He seemed to be hearing new information, but
immediately recognized it as something he should have seen all along.
The common thread in these stories is the value of a second
set of eyes. They don’t have to be
better eyes, but just someone else looking at the problem. As a consultant, I sometimes feel a little
sheepish that I’m stating the obvious.
However, “the obvious” is often overlooked by people close to a problem,
who have been living with it while it developed.
Whether you pay a consultant, or discuss the problem with a mastermind group, or talk to a peer in another department, get another set of eyes to look at your problem.