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5 questions to untangle sticky problems

My work world is filled with fascinating situations – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One client recently spent four weeks, and thirteen people, responding to their CEO’s request to “add this small feature today.” The teams work well until they are blindsided and rushed – and then the poo hits the fan.

One client has a team where everyone gets along… until a Sr. Engineer is challenged – and then the gloves come off and things get ugly. It seems there’s a long history of ‘hero-worship culture’ which emphasizes the value of senior contributors.

One client has cross-functional teams that struggle to know who-should-decide-what between product, engineering, and design. They are wrestling with the age-old tensions surroundings the 2 A’s: accountability and authority.

One client has incredibly smart engineers who go down the rabbit-hole into Wonderland with unproductive discussions and debates about things that don’t make a difference.

And that was just one random Monday. 🙂

While the situations are different, I find a similar set of questions useful in each one. 

Steal them and try them yourself:

  1. Can you give a name to the general patterns you see?
  2. When do those patterns NOT hold true, and exceptions occur?
  3. What simple rules might be behind those patterns and exceptions?
  4. Where did we learn these rules? What values or ideas are behind them?
  5. How can we talk about those rules together, and try experiments to create different patterns?


Pretty basic stuff, right?


But notice we don’t need to:

  • blame or judge people
  • beat people up for not trying hard enough
  • declare some patterns or rules to be ‘bad’ or ‘good’
  • announce a big top-down culture shift
  • declare that “everything is a mess”


We also don’t have to live with the same old problems, figuring that change and growth will take years.

Sometimes we just need new models and frameworks and things “click” into place.

So, give these questions a try next time you’re trying to untangle a team problem.

Or you could spend $497 on a “Problem-Solving Session” with me and we’ll tackle the problem together.

It’s a cheap solution for your expensive problems.

Here’s the magic link:

Take care,


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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