Leadership: Simply Solve the Real Problem

Apparently, the world is addicted to solving the wrong problem. And when we aren’t solving the wrong problem, we are seriously overspending on overly-complex, under-performing solutions. At least according to Rory Sutherland in this compelling TED video (below, keep reading).

I’m familiar with both of these issues. Let me set up the video for you, then watch it below…

What if we’re solving the wrong problems?

Participants in the Leadership Gift program for leaders discover how most of our life we have been trying to deal with our anxiety about a problem rather than identify and address the real problem. As a painful example, if we work in a company culture of blame or rely on laying blame as a coping mechanism, and we participate in a root cause analysis, then we are likely to conclude our assessment with who was the problem.

Blaming a scapegoat temporarily relieves our anxiety, but it doesn’t find and address the real problem. The root cause remains to be found whether it is the system, process, design, information, training, or something else — like the company culture maybe.

This is a little deep, but consider it: Most of our coping strategies for dealing with problems simply address our anxiety about the problem rather than the real problem. However, when we identify and address the real problem, then we always learn and grow, becoming ever more free and powerful. I know which I prefer.

You have complete freedom of choice about how you define a problem.

Could the simplest solution really be the best?

From the agile approach to software development and project management I’ve learned that the simplest solution is often the best solution. This principle is an elegant response to a number of issues, including scope creep and over-engineering. It doesn’t actually mean to always go for the quickest fix — no not at all.

Here’s what it does mean: Examine and re-examine the goal (value) you are trying to achieve as you examine and re-examine the work (cost) you are proposing for fulfilling the goal. This is best done in dialog with others. Success is realizing the greatest value for the least cost.

My takeaway from this principle has led me to be a better buyer and a better supplier. How? Because whichever side of the conversation I am on (goal and value, or work and cost), I do my best to have an open and transparent conversation about the real value sought and the best (simplest, most direct) way to deliver that value.

Whichever side of the conversation you are on, you win by participating.

Simply solve the real problem, watch…

For Rory’s bottom right quadrant, I propose “agile” or the “Leadership Gift.” What do you think?

Posted in Leadership, Responsibility on 06/17/2010 02:41 pm
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