Should a CEO allow her people ample time to analyze problems in the usual manner? You know those meetings…what seemed like a problem last week now looks like a crisis. The players appear to collaborate, yet they explore the problem and who’s responsible for fixing it. Action might happen, but it’s rooted in managing the problem instead of focused on making progress towards a solution.
The answer to my rhetorical question is simple. No.
In times of rapid change (when is it not this way?), the CEO’s job is to get people in the organization out of problem mode and working on solutions. Because our brains are hard-wired to examine and tackle problems – scientists and engineers are best at it – we assume it’s the way to fix everything. It’s not. So, moving to solutions thinking sounds idealistic to some and, to a few, dangerous.
Einstein said ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’
The rational, problem-focused mind asks, ‘what if the solution is wrong?’ The answer is that greater risk lies in pursuing the problem through what appears as rational analysis. Unless it puts lives at risk, a ‘wrong’ solution is actually better than a deferred decision based on problem analysis which prevents decision making. Few solutions are actually ideal, so why not test and learn right away?
We don’t just make wild stabs at the solution. Fact based solutions are important. Rahul Bhardwaj of the Toronto Community Foundation constantly points to solutions built on facts. Rahul uses the quote, ‘It’s not what you look at. It’s what you see.’
What does the CEO need to do help make this happen?
- Start thinking of the solutions based outcomes you want, not the complexity of your staff issues
- Enable the staff to also think this way, i.e., think about outcomes first
- Demonstrate getting to solutions yourself – let the staff see you doing it
- Let the staff try it first on small projects and let them see the results
What’s the primary benefit of solutions-based change in organizations? Speed. Taking time to use solution thinking, painting a picture of future success, and deciding on what to do first, creates decisiveness and speeds up movement toward change. It’s that simple.
Also, resilience, an often hidden asset of the organization grows stronger as a result of moving away from problem focus. Those experiencing success find the change sustainable. Further, it improves productivity because people decide what to do and take action by circumventing the low-productivity approach created by problem-focused indecisiveness.
Speed, resilience, sustainability and productivity. Who can argue against those benefits?
What’s holding your team back from solutions?