bulb-ideaTry this experiment at your workplace to get more involved in more important work, build up your reputation, gain credibility with stakeholders, and ensure you’re not wasting your time when there doesn’t seem to be much to do. Next time you meet one of your customers or stakeholders; ask “What’s your biggest frustration with the project?”


If you’ve got a mountain of things to do and you know you’re performing high value adding work that your managers really want you to perform, then continue doing that! Of course, still remember to set aside some time to work on your own goals to build your capabilities. You may also still be able to try the experiment on a smaller scale so that it doesn’t interfere with your high value adding work.

On the other hand how do you use your time at work if it seems you don’t have much to do? You may become frustrated because you’re stuck in a position where you can’t seem to make progress on your project and everything you start doing feels like it’s not adding value. You can’t use all your work time on your personal goals either, so this is where you can try the experiment.

The “What’s your biggest frustration” experiment:

After you next catch-up with a stakeholder just ask them:

What’s your biggest frustration with the project at the moment?

You could also ask about the product, the process, or something else in an area where you could potentially do something to help. With this information:

  1. Ask the question to a different stakeholder each day for a week, so you have 5 stakeholders
  2. Each day, time-box 1 or 2 hours and dedicate this time to solving the problem of one of your stakeholders
  3. Once you help one of your stakeholders with their biggest frustration, ask a new stakeholder the question

Some of these problems may seem beyond your reach to solve, however when you spend time thinking about it you may be able to offer alternatives or suggestions that make the stakeholder feel more comfortable, less frustrated, or help them solve the problem themselves – all winning outcomes.

The potential benefits are huge

Firstly, this will ensure that you’re working on the things that are important to your key stakeholders and not wasting time on things that add little value to the company and aren’t part of your personal goals either.

If you then manage to solve some of their problems, your credibility will soar with those stakeholders. You’ll end up being brought into more conversations on more important work as you become seen as a problem solver. Someone who can help those stakeholders eliminate their major frustrations.

There are other benefits even if you don’t resolve the problems

Even if you don’t manage to solve the problems there are still many benefits. For example you’ll be learning about the challenges faced by other roles in your organisation including roles you may aspire to for yourself. This prepares you for taking on those roles in the future as you’ll already have a good idea of how to deal with the challenges they face.

Working on these problems will also build rapport with your key stakeholders and help you see things from their perspective. Having this insight will help you understand what motivates your stakeholders and their respective areas of the organisation, which can help you select the most effective approach when you need to navigate the political waters to get something done for your project.

Complaints are Opportunities!

You’ll also gain valuable insight into what the biggest complaints are around your project, product or processes, which tells you where the opportunities are for the future.

How do make the best use of your time at work when there isn’t much going on?