4 Simple Questions to Clarify Complex Challenges
When facing complex challenges reflect on urgency, necessity, and perfectionism. Here’s how.
#1. How important is finding a solution now?
Make progress by leaving the most complex challenges until later. Do the simplest thing now. Take the easiest path now.
Taking the bull by the horns sounds great until you meet an angry bull.
Deal with underlying issues before solving the most complex challenges. Ask yourself, “How can we make progress without solving the most confusing challenge first?”
#2. How can you shrink big to small?
Brian Tracy wrote the international best seller, “Eat that Frog.” He suggests doing the hard thing first. Perhaps you can gobble a frog and get it over with. But elephants go down in small pieces.
- What’s the simplest step forward?
- What’s the clearest step forward?
- What’s the easiest step forward?
Make progress. Don’t choke on the most difficult challenges. Don’t fret about the size of your elephant. Take a small bite and chew. And so on.
#3. What’s necessary?
Urgent feels necessary, but maybe it’s a distraction. Evaluate ‘urgent’ issues by exploring impact. What if you do nothing? Imagine someone feels upset. Is it necessary to halt progress to deal with their splinter? Be kind and focused.
Urgencies distract from priorities.
Some feelings distort reality. When urgent concerns have big implications deal with them. What happens when you temporarily ignore an urgency. Will the house burn down?
#4. What is good enough?
Perfect solutions to the most complex challenges are rare. Reject perfectionism. Embrace the next imperfect step.
Perfect is slow, laborious, and unlikely. Imperfect is achievable. A good steak now is better than waiting for the perfect steak.
A good step is better than the perfect step.
Set the bar high enough to inspire effort, not so high people walk away.
10 Ways to Successfully Lead Through Problems
The Process of Solving Complex Problems Research paper.
First, stop the bleeding!
Seems like a double whammy when a complex challenge is a crisis too.
I always made the effort to finish the Bull first, enables one to move on. If we delay the most difficult to later it seemed to linger in my mind. So once we handle the task we move on to the next. I used the priority system of first come first serve! Of course you will always encounter the squeaky wheel!
Thanks Tim. You and Brian Tracy are on the same page. Not a bad place to be.
I have a quote posted on my file cabinet: “Imperfect progress today is better than perfect progress tomorrow–Dan Rockwell” :O)
In my opinion, you’ve arrived when you get posted on a filing cabinet.
I appreciate the warning to beware of easy answers to complex problems. It reminds me of the Mencken quote, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. “
Cool quote Charles. Thank you.
For #2: I have two kids (now grown and in college). When they were little, telling them to clean the playroom was — to them — an impossible job. So I broke it down into doable tasks. First, all the toys had their own bins, and those bins had labels (pictures only when they were very little, pictures and words as they got older). So instead of telling them to “Clean up this entire room”, I could tell one to put the cars in the car bin and tell the other to put the baby clothes in the baby clothes bin. Then we’d pick two more categories and repeat until the room was cleaned up.
We could even make it a race (who can pick up their assigned toys first), give a reward (you get a cookie when the room is clean), or both. And we had a lot less complaining/arguing, which is usually the longest part of any job!
Brilliant. Break projects into time-bound milestones.
Just goes to show that good leadership principles apply at home. Maybe they are born there.