What’s your problem, anyway?
In a highly specialised society, with all the trimmings, distractions, applications, devices, gadgets, widgets and life hacks that make a 21st century human existence, it’s all too easy to forget the basics.
We didn’t used to be this way. This is not where we started.
We lived in small groups, taking care of our own. But gradually we realised that if I solve a problem for you over there, then you solve a problem for me over here. I plant and harvest the wheat, so the baker doesn’t have to. The baker solves a problem for me, by giving me money which I can use to solve other problems I have.
The baker solves a problem for other hungry humans by providing them nourishment, whilst they solve problems like fighting to defend us, or managing our economies, providing entertainment for us or healing us when we are unwell.
It’s easy to forget, with all the distractions, that a business is simply an entity that thrives, no, survives, on solving problems. The business exists to solve problems for other entities. And you, as a highly specialised, talented individual, have been employed to solve the businesses problems. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO or the cleaner – you’re a problem solver.
All of you. Every last one. Except maybe for the odd problem-creator …
You, your experience, and your skillset, are a specific solution to a specific problem. That is why you are employed. This is why you give your precious life time to the business, and in kind the business solves a problem for you. The title you’re given is little more than a description of the problems you are here to solve.
Project Controls solves a problem for a business in that it acts like a satellite navigation system. It allows the driver to progress without holding a map, a watch and a wallet in their hands, focusing on what’s important – safely transacting forward progress in a calm and controlled manner.
But we tend not think in abstract terms of problem solving – perhaps it’s because we don’t train people in the abstract art and science of problem solving.
Perhaps we may better at solving problems if we were to train our problem solvers in:
· How to focus on problems
· How to articulate solutions
· How to be succinct and say more with less
· How to state the problem in terms of 'what it is preventing you from achieving'
So much business pain (and waste) is created by change resistance, change fear and change sabotage – if we all understood and spoke the language of problem solving, could we then agree more easily on the nature of the problems?
And if so, could we then also agree more easily on the direction of solutions?
After all, resistance to needed change is little more than an affirmation that ‘I do not accept your solution, because I do not agree with your solution’.
And as a business of problem solvers, if you could all agree on the solutions more readily, then you could quickly run out of problems to solve...
However, if all the problems are solved, then you no longer need the problem solver…
Perhaps we need problem creators as well. Actually we have them - only in 21st century speak we call them 'disrupters' when we like what they do, but 'disruptive' when we don't.
Do you view what you do as the art and science of problem solving?
What exactly is your problem?