Do you ever get the feeling that you you’re participating in a completely different conversation than the person you’re talking to?
Maybe you are.
Back in December, Power BI MVP Lars Schreiber shared this tweet:
I’ll bet that was a difficult conversation.
Although I wasn’t in the room with Lars and his client, I’ve been in similar rooms having similar conversations on many occasions where it gradually became obvious that my understanding of the meeting’s goals were not shared by the other participants.
Without a shared understanding of goals and priorities, collaboration quickly breaks down.
Without a shared understanding of goals and priorities, activity are falsely equated with progress – for how can you make progress without a chosen destination?
Without a shared understanding of goals and priorities at the beginning, much of what is done will need to be undone and/or redone once the disconnect is identified and rectified. Often it’s not just a matter of going back to the start – it’s worse. The parties that argued against the project the first time will be empowered and emboldened by any delays and false starts, and the greater the impact of the misunderstanding, the more difficult it will be to get things back on track.
In my experience the best thing to do in situations like this is to immediately step back, stop focusing on implementing a solution to a problem, and focus instead on clearly defining the problem that needs to be solved. Once you know not everyone is working on the same thing, ask the questions no one thought to ask before, or which were asked without the right people involved.
The best case scenario is that everyone can quickly get aligned on common goals and priorities – the disconnect was a bump, not a crash.
Even in the worst case scenario, it’s better to ask the hard questions and to avoid pressure to “just keep working” before your strategic goals are reestablished and validated. The sunk cost fallacy will work against you, but it’s important to remember that it is a fallacy.
If you’re six months into a year-long project, it’s hard to admit that you might need to throw away two or three months worth of work, and end up coming in over schedule and over budget. That’s hard, but it’s better than delivering something no one needs at the end of the year having consumed the entire schedule and the entire budget with nothing useful to show for it.
Going back to that tweet, I have every reason to assume that Lars and his client were successful. Even though Power BI and PowerPoint are very different tools, there are many use cases where either one could be applied to great effect… and at the risk of Abraham Maslow rolling over in his grave, if the only tool you have is PowerPoint, every problem starts to look like a presentation.
I suspect that Lars used this shocking statement as an opportunity to start a new conversation, and to explore the problems his client was using PowerPoint to solve. The next time you find yourself in a similar situation… maybe you will too.
 Which is also when I started this post. Life has been busy forever.
 I added the previous footnote over a year before I added this one. Life has indeed been busy forever.
 This makes me think of one my favorite Sun Tzu quotes.
 Or other type of effort, but in my experience it’s usually a project.