What’s The Problem?


Good performance consulting always begins with seeking to understand the problem before launching into deciding what the solution is going to be.  Organizational Development processes also believe it is important to identify the problem before recommending a course of action.  But what happens if you cannot identify the problem?

In many situations we evaluate, and then the problem is fairly apparent.  Once we have identified what needs to happen that is not happening, we can usually move quickly into a fix.  Yet I had to be reminded this week of what happens when it is difficult to identify the problem and where we could be going wrong.

After meeting with a new client we had a clear-cut understanding of what he wished his employees were doing more of, and how not doing it was causing his frustration.  If we could just get the right behaviors to happen, the issue would disappear.  When I started to review my notes, and prepare for a second round of interviews with other team members, I became stuck with putting my finger on the problem.  My notes seemed to be headed in several directions.

I spoke with a trusted colleague this morning and asked her to help me sort out my confusion.  And the conclusion was I was not confused at all.  I had identified not one problem but several problems.  I was so focused on narrowing down the scope that I was trying to confine my thoughts.  And yet, my thoughts were telling me to ask “What Are The Problems”, plural, not problem, but problems!

Once I realized that I was not confused, but rather clearer of thought than I had given myself credit, it all made sense!

My advice to any of you that seem unsure of the problem is to allow yourself to realize there could be a lot of problems causing a single issue.  And the other piece of advice is to talk with other learning professionals and get a second take.  Often the person you ask for a second opinion of is separated from the situation and simply can see the forest for the trees better.  In my case, it was great to get a confirmation that I wasn’t missing anything, and at the same time it gave me the sanity to realize it was okay to have several performance issues going on at the same time.

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