5 Ways to Stop Solving the Wrong Problem
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker
The leaders’ job is to help their team identify the RIGHT problem before coming up with a creative solution.
Leaders eventually row in the wrong direction when they keep looking at problems from the same perspective.
The skill of a rower is nullified when the boat is pointed in the wrong direction.
5 ways to scrutinize a problem from a 360-degree perspective:
#1. Select team members with diverse backgrounds to examine the problem from multiple perspectives.
#2. Ask each person to identify what they think the problem is and why it exists.
#3. Explore what is working, as well as what is not.
#4. Encourage team members to talk with EACH OTHER, not just the person at the head of the table.
Create a co-learning environment where rank is irrelevant.
#5. Build on each other’s ideas. Adopt a go-with approach, rather than a go-against approach. When a team member explains their view of a problem, say, “Yes, and ….”
Real problems precede real solutions:
It’s a waste of time to solve the wrong problem. But identifying the real problem is the beginning of a breakthrough solution.
Multiple perspectives expand your opportunity to generate creative solutions.
- What is the real problem?
- What and why is it happening?
- How can a creative solution be found?
How might leaders help teams identify the RIGHT problems?
How might leaders come up with creative solutions to the RIGHT problems?
This post is the combined work of Dan Rockwell and Teruni Lamberg.
Teruni Lamberg Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno
Teruni is the author of: Leaders Who Lead Successfully: Guidelines for Organizing to Achieve Innovation and Conducting Productive Meetings: How to Generate and Communicate Ideas for Innovation.
Identifying the right problems and formulating creative solutions to those problems begins with following the steps you provide here. Many times, the problem as initially perceived turns out to really be a byproduct or symptom of another, less obvious underlying problem. Getting those multiple perspectives is key. Listening to those who deal with problems face-to-face on a daily basis is essential, and too often their input is marginalized in the managerial rush to “do something.” One of my mentors used to quote Charles Kettering: “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” This approach can prevent a lot of rowing in the wrong direction!
Thanks Jim. Yes, the temptation to solve symptoms rather than problems is powerful. It takes discipline to avoid a quick solution to the presenting issue.
Love the quote. Cheers
“Is the ‘thing’ really the ‘thing’?”
And all too often, we see a “team of experts” solve the apparent problem and miss the real problem. Teams need some wild cards to ask those obscure questions.
Thanks Jorgan. “Wild cards” … great term. The wild card is often hard to take. But, it’s the outsider perspective that often makes a big difference. One question is, “how can we bring in an “outsider?”
Great points Dan,
Identifying the “root cause” is mission critical, not jumping in too quickly helps if we have or can take the time to solve. Some are simple some are complex!
Making sure we have the proper solution helps if we have experienced the problem before.
New problems take us to ” the solving circle” getting multiple sources is always the best when available as you so mentioned!
Glad you jumped in today, Tim. “the solving circle” — nice. The idea of problem recognition is even more important when we’ve seen the problem before. If the same problem keeps coming back, obviously there’s a root cause that isn’t being addressed.
Gotta stop calling “challenges” problems. Problem gives a “negative connotation”. When you switch from “problem” to challenge, it becomes, “what is the challenge?” How do we approach the challenge? What might be some solutions to this challenge? It focuses individual and team thought onto a positive direction, not another problem? Life is full of challenges, not problems.
Thanks Roger. Language matters. Thanks for the encouragement.
The faster the problem is solved, the higher the risk that the root of the problem wasn’t solved. This potentially leads to the same problem or even bigger problem sprouting up in the future.
How might leaders help teams identify the RIGHT problems? One way could be by tracing back one’s footsteps that lead to the current problems/challenge, then altering the steps to take you to where you want to get to.
Please have another go-round on this webinar! Many of us were shut out of this one! I’d like to be on your list if you are able to have this again!
Sr. Commercial Escrow Officer
Downtown Community Escrow
Timing of this article is perfect. As an MSW student, working on team projects, it’s easy to go down the path of “what we know/understand best” vs initially asking, “What is the real problem”. The trap is coming up with academically plausible and creative solutions, that are irrelevant.
“My internship was about Affordable Housing, where I focused on seniors…”
“That’s great, but does that apply to our specific problem?”
“What is the real problem?”
In a Navy Leadership coarse it was pointed out that if one percieves there is a problem then there is a problem however it might be the problem that you percieves.
In a Navy Leadership coarse it was pointed out that if one percieves there is a problem then there is a problem however it might not be the problem that you percieve