Thursday, March 5, 2020

Strategic Problem-Solving at the Board Level

At the board level, directorship effectiveness is based on the strategic problem-solving competency via both framing the right questions and answering them smoothly.

We are living in a complex world with continuous changes and disruptions, business problems become over-complex and interconnected, make it impossible to have complete knowledge and understanding of many issues.

Fundamentally, every work is to deal with problems big or small both from long-term perspectives or on a daily basis. Corporate boards should bring the outlier’s view, have a multidisciplinary understanding of crucial business problems at the strategic level, propose ideas and ask great questions to define the right problems and facilitate the optimal solutions.

Strategic problem-solving is a process of drawing artistic realization about the best future into a scientific canvas: Many of today’s business problems are complex, and the future is the most difficult problem of our era. Perhaps no corporate board is capable of defining all of the current needs, foreseeing all of the future events, drawing artistic realization about the best future, and recognizing all of the potential opportunities for business exploration. It's important to look at the problem domain holistically and apply the “simplicity and flexibility” principles. Art, design, science, and humanity are interconnected to understand the “scope” of problems and deal with them systematically.

Corporate boards are more as problem-definer than the direct problem-solver because they often delegate the well-defined problems to management for solving them or implementing solutions to tailor varying circumstances. When constructing a solution, requirements, qualities and cost factors should be prioritizing while comfort zone and market trends taking place. It’s important to leverage the scientific perspective to make sure that everything works as a "system" and all of the elements necessary for an outcome are present.

You have to focus on what you will ignore besides what you will focus on: With limited time spreading on many critical issues, BoDs need to gain deep insight into how things work just by analyzing the aggregates, not necessary to dive into the trivial details. Board Directors need to understand the difference between being a director and the operator of the business. Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what is. Prioritization forces them to be more creative, to come up with better ideas, set the right tones and improve the overall problem-solving competency of the business.

There are both old problems and emergent issues; short-term pressures and long-term concerns. There is no way to create a definitive prioritized list without more business context. Most Board decisions are not so "bi-nary" as to demand a yes/no or up/down decision, but rather an airing of the issues and adjusting the terms to meet objections. Board directors need to guide the senior management team through effective questioning, coaching, advising, defining and making the assessment of the business problems at the strategic level, as well as monitoring the process for business problem-solving accordingly.

Sometimes the “science” means processes and the suggestions of a tame problem, and “art” suggests a more creative, uncertain approach that suggests a wicked problem: Problem-solving is a mindset with curiosity, self-inclusiveness, creativity, and progression, break down and the transformation of one difficult problem into the easier ones. Many problems are tough and complex, and there are different sorts of emotions behind them. Most people have been schooled to believe that they must know the answer and that there is an answer, even when faced with a wicked problem. For problems (the 'wicked' kind) where the information about its sources, cases, and possible consequences of the unexpected kind are distributed in the population of the organization and its “customers.” Creativity and intuition are the key skills for problem defining and solving. Complex problem-solving requires both multidimensional intelligence and emotional excellence.

For some tame problems, it takes a logical step-wise scenario, identify the problem - what is exactly wrong, out of balance, unjust, etc., the exact description of the problem, find the factors involved in the final "incorrect" outcomes, understand the need for root cause analysis for an issue with regards to existing systems and is able to find a systemic solution to deal with human and social concerns. A healthy process for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard process; creativity and logic, the best practice and the next practice.

The further the future impact, the harder it is for those living in today to see any reason to care. At the board level, directorship effectiveness is based on the strategic problem-solving competency via both framing the right questions and answering them smoothly. A strategic board has the advantage of pulling enough resources and pushing the business model of technology, trustworthiness, integrating multidisciplinary methodologies and practices to steer the business with the seamless problem-solving continuum.


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