Veronica Boaz, PhD, PMP, RMP, ACP

Project Management Consultant

Project Managers: Experts at the Game of Business Whack-A-Mole.


Why is it that when one problem seems to get solved that fourteen others seem to pop up like particularly malevolent moles in a Whack-A-Mole game? It’s because it’s the nature of what we do. No matter what the fancy title, great intentions, vision or mission statement, we are problem-solvers and experts at the game of Business Whack-A-Mole. The continuous and unsettling change in the game made it particularly difficult for me to get my footing. No sooner was I becoming accustomed to one situation when it changed yet again.

It seems to me that although I experience challenges as unique and unrelated incidents, they are, in fact, all related to one another if by nothing else than the people in the game. So the question is, are we doomed to an endless whacking of moles, one successful solution to be replaced by four new challenges? The answer is: the ubiquitous “Yes… and No.” Not a satisfying answer is it? Don’t we all want that magic solution, the silver bullet that finally puts an end to those pesky moles. Sorry, there isn’t one.  The only way to get good at the game is to try to find the special blow that can handle more than one mole at a time. Participating in the FYI Leadership program here at Ciber has helped with the endless paradox of Whack-A-Mole. The book,The Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller, has provided me with key ways to stop playing the game; by asking the right questions.

“So,” you ask, “Why is this happening?” That’s question that will never get you to an answer.  A different question might be, “How can I change so that I have more impact on the game?” Then, the key is to stop playing. Stop playing for long enough to back up and get a view of the whole game and how the challenges (moles) interrelate and interact. What can you solve that may provide insight or impact other challenges? It won’t stop the game but it may reduce the number of moles you have to whack. It’s hard for me to remember to stop fighting when surrounded by problems and obstacles.  The fact is, those darn moles multiply and playing the whack one-at-a-time game, leads to endless effort. Endless effort leads to fatigue and pretty soon the moles win.

So the next time you find yourself embroiled in Office Whack-A-Mole, stop, step back and ask the right question. It might be the magic blow.

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