Questions Are Your Answers

Another irrational human behaviour that also plagues management: Jumping to solution, rather than perfecting the understanding of the problem.

From a human perspective, I think the problem here lies in the fact that people can be somewhat restless and want to quickly get down to doing something. Perhaps this is driven by a fear that if we don’t fix the problem right away, it will get worse. So, let’s do something about it right now!

But clearly, a weak understanding of the problem will only lead to compounding the problem further. Rather, understanding the true problem can give us clarity on what to do. So, how do we get to the heart of the problem:

1. Slow down: The first thing to do is calm down. The more you look at the problem, the more you are going to want to do something about fixing it. Though this is hard, at this point it is best to stop yourself from thinking about how to fix it. Or what to do.

2. Step away: Strategy requires an external perspective. And perspective doesn’t come from standing right next to the problem. If it did, the whole consulting industry would not exist. Stepping away from the problem can often give you an outsider’s view to help identify and rectify the problem. So get away from the data, the process, the manifestations. The laptop.

3. Look for clues: Very often, a complicated problem is actually a simple problem manifested differently. The very nature of scale in management (or any long term activity) results in a small problem being amplified differently in different areas of the activity (or organisation). Fixing each manifestation is not the way to go, and this is something we are guilty of too. Work inwards, by asking questions, finding where the problems are related, and looking for clues we can actually identify a common pattern through all the different manifestations. On most occasions, I have found that this common thread is the true problem.

4. Don’t fix it yet: Work outwards and understand how fixing this problem will address various manifestations in the process, activity or organisation. Get ready for change, warn those who are involved that somethings are gonna be different. Nobody likes change, so it’s better to warn them. Align the different activities so that the manifestations can be fixed as well.

Implement your solution, watch the ripple effects pan out and top it off with a presentation with some loaded words. You’re done.

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