Some managers were given the task of measuring the height of a flagpole. They looked at the task and discussed how it should be done. Ladders were purloined and tape measures employed. Managers tried to climb the ladders, without success. The tape was dropped and tempers were raised.
Then an engineer came along and looked at the managers struggling. He silently approached the flagpole, pulled it out of the ground, laid it on the ground, took out his tape and measured it, gave the measurement to one of the managers and then walked away, with a sly smile on his face.
After he left, the managers discussed what had happened with each other. “Isn’t that typical of an engineer!” said one. “We’re looking for the height, and he gives us the length!”
By looking at things from a different perspective, the engineer saw the answer in a way the managers didn’t see. Instead of asking what we need to do, identify the results we require to get. That way, we concentrate on consequences, not activity; effectiveness, not just efficiency.