Being right is not the same as being effective. (Sometimes you just gotta let someone be wrong.)

Musing for:

Being right is not the same as being effective.

“What a waste of time. This is stupid.”

More than once in my corporate job leading engineering teams I had a customer make unreasonable demands.

In one case, the client replaced the project manager on their side just a few weeks before go-live on a months-long project. We had been working with this client for over a decade, and the project plan had been scheduled and agreed on before he came. Still, the new project manager decided that our team (and only our team) must complete a laborious, formal, comprehensive risk documentation and mitigation exercise before they would even hold another status meeting for the project.

In another case, a client claimed HIPAA laws forbid them from using our product without certain changes that would make make it meet their unique preferences. Attorneys from our company and dozens of our other healthcare clients disagreed with their interpretation.

Internally, we knew that what they were requesting was unnecessary and wasteful.

We also knew that arguing with them was even more wasteful. They held firm to their beliefs, regardless of the evidence.

I really don’t like acting as if I agree with someone when I am convinced they’re mistaken.

But being right is not the same as being effective.

So we made an investment in the relationship. We did what they asked, while remaining convinced that their reasons were unsound.

And the project moved forward to successful conclusions.

Later evidence confirmed our belief that the steps they asked for shouldn’t have been necessary. But only by complying with their wishes could we earn the trust we needed to help them see a new viewpoint.

We had been right. But being effective meant releasing the need to be right. It meant allowing them to be wrong for a while even though it cost us some extra time and energy.

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