Alongside reading plenty of fiction, I’m a bit of nerd when it comes to self-help or self-improvement books. If they’re short, snappy and s-motivational I’ll give them a go. A lot of the time, they become a short-lived test until I revert to my old behaviours, but from time to time something or other sticks.
I read Pig Wrestling a few weeks ago and have so far used the methods several times at work to simplify my processes and get results faster.
In general, the concept of the book is that if you find yourself ‘wrestling a pig’, you are tackling the wrong problem. No one wins when they wrestle a pig and everyone gets covered in mud. The book is particularly good at evoking daft but striking visuals like that one, meaning the principles are easy to recall once you’ve read it.
There are five main steps, each with a few supporting questions. I’ve summarised my takeaways below.
1. How specifically is this a problem for me?
First off, many of the things the drop into our task lists and inboxes aren’t really problems for us. We should always look for ourselves, rather than assume something is a problem because we’re told it is. Once we’ve looked, we can decide if we act now (a problem that needs to be solved urgently), later (a problem that is important but not urgent) or never (not a problem).
2. Re-frame the problem
Problems often come loaded with emotion, stress and bias. We need to shed these to solve problems. Think about when someone describes a problem to you – it’ll often include an assumption about the person or organisation causing the problem, perhaps they “don’t care” or “won’t help”. By stripping a problem back to the facts, we can solve it rationally.
3. Ask what connects failed attempts
Problems are often repeated, for example every week an employee is late submitting a report. Ask yourself:
- How will I know when the problem is solved?
- What will I see when the problem is solved?
- What do I need?
The final part of this has been the most helpful guidance to me. Let’s take our weekly report example. Imagine you want a report on a project every week and your employee is always late sending it to you. Ask yourself what you need, not what you’ve always had or wanted but actually need to do your job. Perhaps it’s not a full report but a sales figure for the week. You could probably set up a way to find that out for yourself or at least reduce the task of creating a report to sending you a single figure.
4. When/Where does problem occur? When not?
Once again, working on the premise that most problems are repeated take the time to record when problems do and don’t occur. Perhaps your report arrives on time in the first week of the month but gets later as the month goes on. It could be that the employee tasked with it has more pressing demands as the month develops.
5. See problems as overdone strengths
A lot of the time, a problem isn’t caused because someone is intentionally trying to frustrate you. For example, your employee might want to give you the most accurate and detailed report possible, so they take all week doing it. They don’t know you only needone figure. Help them take that effort and conscientiousness and apply it where it’s needed.
Remember the problem may be you!
I’d recommend reading Pig Wrestling for yourself. It’s a quick and easy read with some actionable advice that has helped me work smarter.