Tools and re-tooling... one big analogy!

Heads up... this will be one big fat analogy for understanding situations and problem solving. Recently I was reminded that when you don't use the correct tool(s), the job is so much more difficult; for that mater, sometimes impossible. I had to remove an "allen bolt" from a piece of machinery, and it was on so very tight, I could not loosen it.

If you are not familiar with an allen bolt, it is a bolt with a hexagon socket in the head and you use an "allen key" to loosen and/or tighten the bolt. As bolts go, it is a good one, and it's usually straight forward to get on and off (see picture). My allen key couldn't get it off; when I used a drill with a hexagon bit attached, I still couldn't turn the bolt... it would not budge and I had a BIG problem! I needed to get it off. 

Something you should know about getting bolts off, it is all about torque, which is to say the force of twisting; it explains why a drill wouldn't work, as it is built for speed, and although I thought I had an allen key, it was more of a bicycle tool. As a result of not recognizing that torque was required to loosen the bolt, I defined the problem based on the tools I decided to use - I used my perspective of the tools I had available to define the problem to be a very tight allen bolt... not that the real problem was that I did not enough available torque.

Eventually realizing I needed the right tool that would provide sufficient torque, I bought a true allen key (the long version); sure enough, the bolt came right off - The bolt was never too tight. 

As I look back at my trials and tribulations with the allen bolt...

  • I tried to align the situation to the tools I had at hand, instead of aligning the tools to the situation; this was compounded because although I understood needing torque, I dismissed it and focused on the tools.
  • I spend almost no time on the situation to really understand it, and develop a plan... I simple grabbed my tools and "went to work".
  • I became so entrenched with my line of thinking, it wasn't until I looked for advice that I was able to mentally "step back" and reassess what tools I was using to address the situation.
  • There was a part of me, deep down, that knew I should be working with a real allen wrench but didn't want to spend the time getting one, or even spending the money. In the end I had to buy one, and I calculate it ultimately took me 5 times longer. 
  • The tools I had were just fine, just inappropriately being used. It was not the fault of the tool that it could not remove the allen bolt.
  • The ultimate solution was to re-tool. I now have a fine set of allen keys that I can use another time.

There you have it... a story, lessons and reminders all from removing an allen bolt. 

It could have easily been a story about a new competitor, a major customer changing how they do business, a product launch to a new market segment, or applying for a new position.

Analogies are just so much fun, don't you think?