“We were on a break”

Picture of Matt Haynes

Matt Haynes


My teenage daughter is obsessed with Friends, the 90s comedy show that has made a phenomenal global resurgence. In the strictest confidence, I confess I quite like it too.  Whilst some of it is now a touch dated, it’s aged reasonably well and there is something fantastic about being able to enjoy a TV show with my thirteen-year-old daughter.​

“We were on a break!”, one of the most iconic jokes, encapsulated for an entire generation the difficulties of deciding who was right and who was wrong in a relationship and what could and couldn’t be forgiven.​

It’s a brilliant piece of writing and makes for a great recurring punchline, but it masks a basic truth, which is that very little in life or business is truly clear-cut and unopen to interpretation. ​

Humans are very poor at appreciating nuance, and as a species we continually struggle to desperately apply simplistic categories and binary definitions to complex problems. As the writer H.L Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong”. ​

I saw my own “we were on a break” moment the other day whilst sitting in a virtual workshop with one of our clients, working through with a potential supplier whether the solution they were proposing met the requirements the client had articulated. The supplier (Ross) was adamant their solution worked, and that there was nothing further to be discussed. The client (Rachel) was equally certain that it didn’t and pointed out quite forcefully why they felt this way. ​

Trying to be neutral (I’m not sure whether I’d prefer to be Joey, Chandler, Monica or Phoebe in this example), I could see both points of view, but the fundamental truth was that the requirement was ambiguous and neither party were ever going to be convinced by the other.  They both held completely contradictory sets of assumptions about what the requirement meant. ​

If you are buying a technology solution or service, one important way to try and avoid ending up like Ross and Rachel is to be really clear about what you want, how you define it, and how you measure whether you’ve got it. ​

At Finyx, we help our clients with this by using our Solution Requirements Framework – an iteratively developed procurement toolkit that provides a rigorous methodology for gathering the information to develop an unambiguous library of requirements that meet our client’s needs, providing a common understanding of what is to be delivered, and the for holding the supplier to account for delivering the solution and the benefits that underpin the business case. If you would like to know more, please contact matt.haynes@finyx.com. ​

Update: according to my family I’m most like Chandler – I’m not sure whether this is a compliment or an insult…​