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Remember to question the constraints

·2 mins

A few days ago, a colleague demonstrated an impressive pattern. He (again) was able to have an interesting observation when root-causing an issue. Seeing this more than once let me to ask him about it. I wanted to learn how he approaches a problem.

When discussing this with him - he explained that he tries to question the constrains in front of him. Sometimes, he said, the constraints are things we force upon ourselves. In those cases, we shouldn’t have them as constraints. Realistically, a fair amount of the time the constraints are real, and you have to be prepared to be wrong a lot, and pivot quickly.

Because of the day-to-day inertia, it’s easy to take the existing state as is, and not doubt the status quo. The title of this post has two parts: The first is remembering the second is the questioning. Given that I’ve remembered to think about it - I could question the constraints.

A good tool to use in those cases is a framework which has a step which questions the existing state. One such example is the CIRCLES method (which I learned about from a product manager I worked with). That specific framework isn’t the main point here. The main point is to find the process which will force you to think about the constraints.

When you use a framework which will force you to think about the constraints, you are more likely not to forget to do so. In some cases, questioning the current constrains will remove them.