Monday, December 26, 2011

Pain Alignment - Align the pain with who you want to fix the problem.

As a  manager, I have to build systems to make people do the right thing. For example, if I want software engineers to make the software testable, I make the same software engineers in charge of testing (This is not a majority Microsoft opinion)! I call this strategy Pain Alignment. I heard a great example of pain alignment  on my run this morning and I'm going to share it Verbatim:

   Rocky (not his real name) lived in a house with single paned glass in the city. Being in the city his house was very close to the neighbors.  Unfortunately for Rocky his neighbor's house had nice double paned windows and if the dogs barked outside it didn't bother them.  One day his neighbors decided they needed some yippy dogs.  At first this was fine since the dogs lived in the house, and the neighbors walked the dogs regularly. Soon the neighbors realized walking the dogs was a lot of work, and they installed a dog door. Now the dogs could run into the yard and bark.  There's a lot of activity in the yards in a city, so this was a stressful environment for the dogs,  which resulted in lots of barking - barking which didn't bother the neighbors.

The dogs barked and barked, all day and all night. This was a real problem for Rocky since the dogs woke him up, and then woke his kids up,  which was not cool.  Rocky complained, but the neighbors weren't that interested. To up the pain,  if the dogs woke Rocky up at 2am, Rocky would call the neighbors at 2am to make sure the neighbors felt the pain of the dogs barking.

At first his neighbors tried to fix the problem. First the neighbors tried "dog barks, citrus spray" collars. This worked until the dogs realized if they barked enough the citrus reservoir would become empty and they could then bark as they pleased.  After that the neighbors tried  "dog barks, electric shock" collars.  This was effective till the dogs realized they could weasle out of the collars.  At this point, Rocky was tired of calling his neighbors at 4am, and decided to take a few stabs at his own solutions.

First Rocky tried getting a magic wand from an infomercial which would emit a noise painful to dogs when it heard barks (while being silent to humans). This was completely ineffective, and I include it only for comic relief.

After that Rocky thought hard, he needed a way to increase the pain of the barking to the neighbors so they would deal with the barking problem.  Rocky realized if the dogs pooed every time they barked, this would be painful for the neighbors, so he came up with the following idea. When the dogs bark that applies pressure to their intestine, by coupling the constant barking with some mild laxatives the dogs would poo every time they barked!

Rocky purchased snausages and drilled out 1/2 the sausage snack, and inserted a bit of laxative - the dogs loved eating the snausages.  Now when the dogs barked, they'd poo! This resulted in much pain for the neighbors and within 2 weeks they connected their dog door to a newly built dog run with high fences. The fences blocked out the urban environment which was stressing the dogs, and thus they stopped barking almost immediately.

Remember, if you want to fix a problem align the pain of the problem with the people that caused it.

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