I was working with a client yesterday, conducting a virtual meeting in Microsoft Teams. The intent of the meeting was to discuss possible ways to move forward with one of the client’s business systems.
I prepared for the meeting by developing a few logic trees. Maybe it’s just me, but I find pushing virtual sticky notes around on a PowerPoint slide to be a good way to organize my thoughts. Basically, I’m taking propositions that occur to me and writing them as a single, grammatically correct sense (as if I would know anything about grammar) and then connecting them with directed arrows. So the result is a simple digraph, with simple statements of facts towards the bottom of the page and moving towards conclusions near the top of the page.
I had four slides, containing a total of maybe 100 entities. Statements like “119. We have the information necessary to implement an alarming mechanism.” And somewhere close to this virtual sticky note on the slide is a statement like “117. We have an effective means for determining when the system is no longer generating correct results.”
Long story short, it was a good meeting. This was the first time I showed this client how I make my thinking visible. And while I wasn’t expecting it, at the end of the meeting, the client sponsor remarked about the technique: “Looks like we have a new best practice [for the group].”
That felt good. I wanted to say a bit more about the tool in the meeting, yet when the client has indicated a willingness to accept an offer, it’s time to quit selling it and just take their order.
This is really just the starting point, though. These little logic diagrams are great for helping people to verbalize their thinking. Even when they are simply reviewing someone else’s ideas, they can notice situations where the facts don’t quite line up, or where something important is missing.
Ultimately, I would like to get to the point where an organization has a large, organized knowledge graph of truth claims (facts and conclusions) that they review and maintain as a group. For example, consider a claim like “302. Project Mumble is likely to be finished on time.” Wouldn’t it be good to see the reasoning underlying that claim and for team members to be able to discuss it and comment on it in a way that didn’t cause people to become defensive?