Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Achilles Heel of Problem-Solving

The business will be more successful when they realize that one of their greatest strengths will be their problem-solving capability. 

Today’s business is dynamic and complex, many organizations are on the way for radical digital transformation, solving problems large or small to make a leap of business maturity. But what are the logical steps to follow to ensure you are solving the right problems in right ways? What is the Achilles Heel of problem-solving? And how to improve problem-solving effectiveness?

The wrong cause of the problem: Either for individuals, organizations, or society as a whole, the problem-solving capability is crucial for surviving and thriving. However, often times, people have a tendency to try to fix a symptom which results from the actual cause of the problem. When they do this, they throw good money after bad. They allow problems to grow under the surface, out of sight, out of mind, until it’s too late, become out-of-control. A solution is nothing if the problem is not perceived. Therefore, creating the awareness of the problem is the first step to making a solution be understood and accepted, realizing “We can't stay the same.” The realization only comes when the problem is perceived. So, trying to fix the wrong cause of a problem will waste time and resources, increase anxiety, many decision-makers fail to fully grasp and accurately perceive what leads to problems and difficulties. Often, events and patterns are observed on the surface, and then the action is taken, but that is too early. Until the underlying problem is addressed, the symptom or result will continue to return. A better solution that crosses all industries is to keep peeling back the layers to find the root cause through asking five WHYs, or taking other systematic approaches - to discover the real cause, and address it. The problem-solving scenario is also a part of Change Management because change is never for its own sake, but for solving the real issues and making continuous improvement. Keep in mind, solving the wrong problems or solving the problem in the wrong way can cause more severe issues later on. There are many pitfalls on the way, first things first, frame the right questions before answering them, ensure doing the right things before doing things right for improving problem-solving capability.

Silo mentality stifles innovative problem-solving:
Fundamentally running the business is a problem-solving continuum. The digital hyper-connectivity is breaking down the functional borders, business borders, and even industrial or national borders. The digital shift has come to a change in organizational forms away from the traditional rigid hierarchies managed through command and control to more fluid and responsive network forms. Yet many business managers still apply old silo management mindsets to new ways of solving complex business problems or running always-on and always-connected businesses. Thus, sometimes they can only solve part of problems or fix the symptoms. Silos don't seem to fit within emerging 'networked' collaborative organizational forms, and if they are being reinforced, their existence is perhaps a legacy of old management thinking applied to new ways of doing or solving problems collaboratively. It will cause the higher risk of conflict and inertia, not something organizations want in a global business environment that demands innovation, speed, responsiveness, and flexibility to succeed.


Ignorance of unknown is another pitfall for problem-solving: Digital organizations are complex systems, with a nonlinear pattern or emergent behavior, unknown unknown; it is caused by the nature of randomness or even chaos. Thus, there are many complex problems need to be solved in running a high-performance business. Many problems are complex because you need to take the interdisciplinary approach to both understand the real problem and take the step-wise approach to solve them. Ignorance of unknown (both known unknown and unknown) is the pitfall for problem-solving. The 'hard' sciences claim objectivity by way of structured methods and empirical practices for problem-solving; there’s also a philosophical connection between wholeness and "partness." 'Partness' means all things are linked together in the cosmos through their interdependent relationships. Thus, today’s digital workforce must have both open and growth mindset, keep updating their knowledge, enhance interdisciplinary understanding, deepen in thinking, also be humble, in order to catch up with the digital speed and solve problems skillfully.

The business will be more successful when they realize that one of their greatest strengths will be their problem-solving capability. It’s important to be aware of the Achilles heel of problem-solving. It is challenging to overcome silo mentality, get out of comfort zone, frame the right problems and solve them effectively.

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