Problem-solving fascinates me because no two ways are exactly the same and the conversation always looks different. Learning new methods and understanding what actions people pursue in search of a solution makes me better at my job and a better human being. I created Bounded Context for two reasons: to explore how leading thinkers solve problems and in hopes that you might discover a piece of knowledge to help you become a better problem solver yourself.
The first year was an incredible journey. I heard from twenty-four industry experts and my curiosity remains at an all-time high. I interviewed friends, former colleagues, and new faces and while the details might differ, the goal is always the same. Lead with empathy, prioritize outcomes, brainstorm options, progress in small steps, get feedback along the way, stay humble, and work as a team to deliver impactful solutions. It’s been an absolute pleasure to explore one of my favorite topics with such incredible guests and share it with you, our listeners.
We’re celebrating one full year of Bounded Context and I’m recapping some a-ha moments and key takeaways from the first season.
Problem-solving is an opportunity for change
In Episode 19, my friend Tom Illmensee said, “The hard cards you got dealt this morning are actually a gift for you to figure out a clever way to play the hand.” Problem-solving extends far beyond technology.
Every single person is a problem solver. Stuck in traffic on your morning commute? Find another route to avoid congestion. Project deadline moved up a week? Quickly inspect and learn what you may need to adapt. Lack the motivation to achieve a personal goal? Ask for accountability, set weekly reminders, find creative ways to spark change.
The details look different for everyone, but behind every problem is an opportunity for change.
There is no preferred method and no single approach fits everyone. It’s a life-long, ever-evolving process with tremendous lessons along the way. This is why I started Bounded Context—as both a guide and an invitation to explore opportunities and potential outcomes in your own life.
Gain alignment from day one
I was joined by Andy Glover for Episode 15 and learned how he and his team at Netflix are working to measure productivity for software projects and developer teams. He said that productivity looks like moving fast with confidence, which starts by aligning teams around a shared vision from day one.
Before diving into a problem, ask yourself:
- Am I asking the right questions?
- What are my goals and how do they align to our strategic objectives?
- How can I bridge the gap between technical practitioners and executives driving strategic initiatives?
Be curious, ask questions, and gain perspective to find shared objectives before breaking into teams for specialized work. When teams lack a common direction or north star, productivity can go sideways quickly. Instead, define what success looks then create a plan to measure progress. Andy said:
“What is true productivity? It’s not just moving fast, it’s moving fast with confidence. What does confidence mean? A high degree of testing, reliance, scalability. So we get busy building and capturing specific metrics in terms of our objectives.”
Gaining alignment takes time but is critical to success.
Surf the chaos
Wes North joined me for Episode 20 and we discussed Cloud migration, the future of technology, and where IT Operations will be in 10 years. During the interview, he shared an incredible phrase, “surf the chaos”.
A good problem makes you question things and comes with a period of uncertainty. Change is hard, especially when the stakes are high and your decisions could affect other people. But this is the meat and potatoes of problem-solving—when the unknown is great, the opportunity for change is even greater.
Is it possible to make major changes that drastically improve your life and the lives of others? Yes. But it often requires you to surf the chaos, adjust your strategy, and lean on teammates for support.
Empathy is the superpower we all need
Sound familiar? It’s a quote from Leah Cunningham who joined me for Episode 21. Leah reminded me why we solve problems in the first place. Most industries boil down to the same thing—human beings solving problems for other human beings. Emphasis on the word human in that last sentence.
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and are inherent to being human. Every problem is a dress rehearsal for the next one. Practice does not make perfect, but it does make us better and more perfectly human.
I had a blast with our first year of Bounded Context and am so excited about where we go next.