Friday, June 28, 2019

The Business "Problem Framer": Where to Start

There are often multiple and inter-related dynamics behind complex problems and it’s critical to leverage effective tools, methodologies, or practices to frame the right problems.

We live in an era full of uncertainty, velocity, complexity, and ambiguity. The result is a higher risk of business conflicts and change inertia, etc. Organizations shouldn’t just respond to the dynamic digital environment in a reactive way. They need to have a deep insight to identify critical problems and take a holistic approach to solve them effectively. A solution is nothing if the problem is not perceived. Creating awareness of the problem is the first step, but where to start?

Internal (SWOT) assessment: The digital world is complex and uncertain, the world boundaries close in, business weaknesses and strengths are inseparable, opportunities are tightly mingled with threats and vice versa. Because in today's digital dynamic, business opportunities and threats cannot exist without a context of interactions. Everything depends on the time horizon used to define opportunities and threats.“SWOT” analysis is a good tool to help business leaders and managers ask great questions, put a category (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to certain characteristics of the organization, give them relevance in problem-framing processes. More specifically, keep conscious of business weakness or deficiency, frame the most critical problems or challenges facing organizations, and solve the issues with the largest potential impact on the long term success of the organization. In practice, one of the big pitfalls in business problem-solving is that too much focus is given to deal with the short-term threats without dynamic planning to leverage medium or long-term opportunities and vice versa. Thus, SWOT assessment help managers perceive problems insightfully, frame and solve problems systematically.

External assessments (benchmarks/customer feedback): Every organization is different with different requirements, technologies, and workforce, and they are at a different level of the organizational life cycle. The external assessment such as benchmarks or customer feedback provide the business management some invaluable input to diagnose business issues and frame the important problems need to be fixed. More specifically, benchmarking is like a quick health check that highlights the areas in which business improvement or a quick fix might be required. Feedback on business performance or outcomes helps the business management identify existing issues and make a timely adjustment for improving future performance in order to keep the business relevant. But keep in mind though, benchmarking usually means apple-to-apple comparison. Often, it can only provide a backward-looking perspective because the data, necessarily, refers to how both the 'peer group' and your own organization has performed in the past. The real-time feedback on action/realization/ implementation provides insights that can genuinely help management teams identify the emerging problems in order to improve business performance, customer satisfaction or the overall organizational maturity. They are useful tools to frame the right problems if being used properly.

Interdisciplinary problem-framer: We live in the hyperconnected and interdependent world with blurred boundaries and extended dimensions. The view of the complex business problem has multidisciplinary perspectives such as socio-cultural, socio-technical, socio-economic, organizational, scientific, artistic, and the philosophical, just to name a few. Thus, to frame the right problems, it’s the importance of framing the multidimensional thinking mindset first to identify critical business issues or spot emerging problems via interdisciplinary ecosystem lens. It is necessary to leverage digital management methodologies and practices, to enable business leaders or professionals framing bigger thinking boxes and gaining an in-depth understanding of the problems. More fundamentally, people are often the center of problems, not systems or processes. Every serious problem we face today has often been caused by human dysfunction - usually at the mindset level. In other words, the wrong focus, the wrong assumptions, the wrong value, the wrong ends or the wrong means. Thus, it is important to gain the necessary knowledge to understand the holistic digital ecosystems. Secondly, it is critical to understand how the people factor affects the business system. People have to frame a new mindset, learn how to apply the new lens of the digital era, acquire updated knowledge and new ways to frame and solve problems based on the expanded point of view and interdisciplinary practices.

Digital disruptions are inevitable and digital transformation is unstoppable. There are often multiple and inter-related dynamics behind complex problems and it’s critical to leverage effective tools, methodologies, or practices to frame the right problems, look for patterns rather than isolating causes and solving them systematically.


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