Something in the American can-do psyche abhors an unsolved problem. Mention a problem (or the euphemistic “challenge”) in a business meeting and before you can blink an eye you will have a plethora of suggested solutions. “Try this” might be an appropriate strategy for light-weight problems but more serious, systemic issues need a thoughtful analysis before jumping to the fix.
Problems that occur in the leadership sphere are rarely simple headaches. Leadership involves people who are often messy, erratic, and unpredictable human beings. In my line of work, consulting and advising on the people side of business, I see plenty of examples of elegant fixes to the people issues along with some pretty awful disasters caused by applying a poor solution. Read below to see the top five reasons your solution won’t fix your problem.
TOP FIVE REASONS YOUR SOLUTION WON’T FIX YOUR PROBLEM
By Dr. Alice Waagen
Leading large groups of people to achieve business goals can result in an array of challenges. Leadership problems can range from under-performing employees, dysfunctional teams, or skill gaps in the management core. For me, an ideal engagement is hallmarked by a client who has a clear notion of the problem and who is open for me to determine the best fix for the situation. Less ideal? The business leader who has already grasped at a solution and simply wants it executed. In these situations, I soon discover that their fix will not fix but will indeed make things worse.
Over the years, I’ve seen a number of reasons why a quick-fix solution is a bad idea. Here are my top five reasons why your solution probably won’t fix your problem.
- The fix comes from the wrong people. Businesses are complex organisms. Leaders who are uncomfortable with problem situations will direct a solution without understanding the nuances of the problem. Unintended consequences soon arise as hidden stakeholders are negatively impacted. When a problem first rears its ugly head, take a broad look at impacts before you grab a solution.
- It worked there, it will work here. Decades ago, US businesses tried to fix inefficiencies by applying the Japanese system of Total Quality Management. Most soon found out the US business culture was vastly different from Japanese and the TQM movement fizzled. Today I see the same misapplication of others’ success when I see business leaders try to adopt practices from Google, Zappos, Amazon and others. Just because a fix works for these companies does not mean it will work for you.
- Squeaky wheel solutions. These solutions get implemented because the person promoting them is loud, insistent, and of a high rank in the company. The reason given for the fix is because he or she says so. When the squeaky wheel is out of touch and has no clue as to what is really going on, you now have a problem that is much, much bigger.
- Limited to no buy-in from the folks in the trenches. Solutions are analyzed and vetted by everyone except the people in the front lines actually doing the work. This is when I hear, “This is being done TO us, not WITH us”.
- Quick fix, cheap fix. Speed and cost are the enemies of good problem analysis and root cause identification. When quick and cheap are the sole criteria for fixes, the result is a temporary patch at best. Over time, the patch wears out and the problem resurfaces, bigger and badder than before because it is now layered with cynicism that future fixes will likewise fail.
Of all the phases of problem resolution, I find that the up-front work of problem definition, scope and root cause to be the most critical. Spending time up front on analysis may feel like progress is slow but implementing the one best solution trumps “let’s try this next” cycles every time.