How to Solve Problems The Sherlock Holmes Way
People who know me will see why I love Sherlock Holmes. I watch enough procedural crime drama, the modern-day TV equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, to be able solve whodunnit well before the last commercial break.
My childhood Arthur Conan Doyle books were formulaic in a way that is similar to CSI’s episode structure. Holmes has a unique approach to solving cases, whether it’s why a bellrope goes nowhere or if the Baskerville clan is cursed.
Humor me as I make the leap from what a great detective does to what project managers do every day. There are many similarities in our approach to project issues.
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First, gather the facts
Facts are crucial. Holmes meets with the client to find out what happened. Holmes will often visit the crime scene to examine the details in context. This allows him to evaluate the situation personally and not rely on another’s report.
This is also true for project managers. You should use all the information you have to solve a problem or lead a project that is failing. Don’t rely solely on the reports of others unless absolutely necessary.
Gather evidence and filter out opinions while keeping the facts straight.
Now draw your conclusions
Holmes will use facts to build a picture of the events. Although there are many logical leaps that are quite large in these stories, you will still be left with a set of conclusions.
Your thinking process will likely be different and more transparent. Sometimes, you need to wait until the end of Conan Doyle stories before the pieces start to come together.
As you learn more about the issue, project management will require you to create the backstory.
Make assumptions and draw conclusions about the impact of the issue on the project. Based on what you know, determine the impact it will have. Consider the budget and project schedule challenges it will present, and don’t forget anything that could be of value.
Sherlock Holmes is the main character of the stories, but he doesn’t work alone. His trusted sidekick Dr Watson is involved in the investigations and with clients.
Watson records everything and provides Holmes with the space he needs to explore his ideas. Holmes also uses Baker Street Irregulars. This is a group of street children who travel around London, unnoticed by criminals or clients. They report back what they find.
You can’t do it all. Usually, you will discuss issues in your team meetings. You might need to have dedicated discussions or mind mapping sessions for difficult problems.
Watson’s knowledge of documentation is a must. Get a free project management issue track template to help you keep track of activity on your issues.
Final, present your conclusions
Holmes will present his solution to the people who are interested in the case after it is solved. Inspector Lestrade is a buffoon, and Holmes uses this literary technique to explain what happened and how he came to his conclusions for the benefit and enjoyment of the reader.
Holmes will also discuss what should happen next. His recommendation for the course Lestrade should follow is to arrest the bad guy.
You will be presenting the problem, your conclusions, and a recommendation for further actions on a project. It’s usually a conversation with the client or project sponsor.
You may keep it to a small extent within the scope of the project team. Once you have agreed on a path forward, you can move your plans into action with little involvement from others. For larger i