Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The CIO as the Digital Solutionist: How to Take the Logical Scenario for Problem-Solving

Keep in mind, problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom.

Problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem. Imagine the digital dynamic that comes in due to these characteristics (less or hybrid structure, fewer rules, and regulations, diversification, ambiguity, unpredictability, nonlinearity, increased flux, and unprecedented digital convenience working and impacting together), business problems become more complex and intricated nowadays. CIOs need to have a strong business orientation and the ability to leverage IT for solving business issues innovatively. Digital CIOs are business solutionists who should apply interdisciplinary knowledge, practice expert power and take the following logical scenario for solving complex business problems and improve IT value proposition.

What is the problem? Assessing and defining the problems is usually more important than solving the problem, It is fundamental but critical to figure out what is exactly the problem. Generally speaking, a problem is a difference between an expectation (vision or intention) and the actual situation (current reality) coupled with a negative feeling. More specifically, the business management should determine why problems happened; how problems escalated; which areas of the organization were affected; and why the problem started. The logical scenario to diagnose the problem include: Identify the problem, what is exactly wrong, out of balance, inefficiency, etc. Any problem depends on your perspective. Thus, ask for others’ feedback in what they believe the problem to be but also be prepared to hear something you might not like or agree with. Seeing the context you are part of, allows you to understand the problem with context, identify the leverage points of the systems and then, choose the decisive factors. Embracing the multidimensional viewpoints means that digital CIOs are skeptical about conventional understanding of issues so that they examine everything before accepting it for the real truth or advising it to others. Besides applying critical thinking to assess the real issue, it’s also helpful for leveraging Systems Thinking to identify multiple, perhaps interconnected problems, so later the business can figure out the holistic solution to fix them without too much side effect.

What are the root causes of the problem? Statistically, around 20 percent of IT problems are caused by technologies, 40 percent are caused by people and 40 percent of them are caused by processes. In practice, it’s imperative to dig into the root cause of the problem. Because trying to fix the wrong cause of a problem will waste time and resources, increase anxiety, decrease productivity, and even worse, cause more problems later on. Until the underlying problem is addressed, the symptom or result will continue to return. CIOs are in a better position to oversee the underlying business processes and gain the contextual understanding of key business issues and diagnose the real root cause underneath the symptoms. In reality, people have a tendency to try to fix a symptom which results from the actual cause of the problem. When they do this, they allow problems to grow under the surface, out of sight, out of mind, until it’s too late. Thus, it’s important to leverage five WHYs or other critical thinking and analytics techniques to discover the real cause and address it. CIOs need to listen to a wide range of opinions and multidimensional viewpoints in order to make sound judgments based on unbiased fact, make a deep analysis, take the identification of the facts and root cause and mold into a solution based on the objectives and other extenuating circumstances.

What are alternative solutions: When you encounter a tough problem, often you need to solve it in a creative way. Creative problem-solving starts with creative communication and set alternative choices. One of the biggest challenges in this complex digital world is the fact that we need different perspectives, different knowledge and different ways to solve a problem. Both creative and critical thinkers live out of the box, ask open questions to collect relevant information, and think alternatives. Do not get trapped in the same old box when trying to figure out the solution. Understand the situation, understand the people working with you as well as the people receiving the "solution," understand expectations from each group involved, understand motivation drivers, understand how different perspective is integrated into the solution. Otherwise, even you have a good intention and work hard to fix the issues, but perhaps cause more serious issues later on. From business management lens, companies should always explore the alternative organizational structures, alternative recruiting pipelines, alternative communication channels, and alternative ways to solve either emerging issues or existing organizational challenges.

What’s the best way to solve the problem? Evaluating which alternatives might work better than others - that is the realm of logical analysis within systems understanding. If you have to make the best decisions you can, take a structural way to make inquiries, a sound process to identify and prioritize alternative solutions, and test every assumption if possible. Encourage learning but also be practical. Make a better choice and have the gut to admit when a mid-course correction is in order. Instead of action-reaction, creativity is often the secret sauce for problem-solving by assessing what is your current situation and what is your fundamental choice. If you try to impose solutions or structures that are too far ahead of the curve, the result is alienation and rebellion rather than problem-solving. A healthy process for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard process, with the ultimate goal for effective problem-solving, to make a smooth transition from pursuing the perfect solution which perhaps does not exist to making continuous adjustment and improvement.


How to keep track of results? Besides defining and solving problems, building transparent problem-solving processes should also include measuring the achieved business results. The evaluation of problem-solving is to ensure the real problems have been fixed and cause the least side effect as possible. It is important to keep track of the outcome of problem-solving. Effective measurement enables improving problem-solve effectiveness. Taking a systematic approach to measurement can avoid blind-spots in problem-solving, having the appropriate performance indicators is very important. And acting on what those indicators are telling you is vital to sustaining and improving problem-solving capability at the business level. Find the factors involved in the final "incorrect" outcome. See if you can measure or weigh each factor's contribution to the result, or the description of the unit of measure. The organization that didn't have a systematic approach to measurement and analysis at both the strategic level and operational level has a giant blind spot that is impairing their performance or problem-solving effectiveness and efficiency.

Problem-solving is both art and science. Keep in mind, problem-solving is about seeing a problem and actually finding a solution to that problem, not just the band-aid approach to fixing the symptom. The problem-solving thought process and practices will not be simple for many of today’s complex issues or vexing problems. Thus, it’s important to take a logical scenario for solving them systematically, holistically, and creatively.

4 comments:

Interesting article and unique.....keep blogging

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