Leaders: rewarding hat tricks or planning?

don't reward hat tricksListening to the CEO of the $500m manufacturing firm describe the exploits of his operations vice president was fascinating:

“Louis was an incredible leader…again. When the product defect was discovered, he told his team to do whatever was needed to fix it. After two weeks of all-hands-on-deck work, Louis got the glitch Continue reading


Leaders: Are You Missing the Real Problem?

“I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this group,” exclaimed Roger. “Their heroic efforts once again made all the difference. Without them working into the wee hours of the morning to fill the customer’s order, we would have missed the shipping deadline.”

“That certainly sounds like dedicated and caring employees. Are you planning any recognition for them?”

“Well, I’m not sure. This is the fourth time this month they’re pulled out the stops and made it happen. They know I appreciate what they do.”

Heroic efforts? Fourth time this month? Goodness, does anyone have their eye on the ball?

Fascinating, isn’t it, how caught up we get in the crisis hoopla, forgetting to ferret out the root cause of needing all those heroic efforts.

Ian I. Mitroff, organizational theorist, consultant and Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California authored Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.  In his book, Dr. Mitroff details five basic types of solving the wrong problem and offers solutions for avoiding misguided outcomes.

5 No-No’s for Problem-Solving

1. Picking the wrong stakeholders. This happens when we focus on just a few interested parties, forgetting about, ignoring and/or failing to consider others who have a stake in the outcome.

Want to avoid wrong solution #1? Take and/or make the time to thoughtfully do a stakeholder analysis. A stakeholder is someone who has a vested interest in the outcome and/or who might be positively or negatively impacted by what happens.

2. Narrowing one’s options. This is one-note thinking: honing in on only one possible solution and failing to consider a broader range of options or alternatives.

How to side-step this trap? Don’t settle for just one definition of an important problem. When problems are called ”important,” there’s usually more than one way to skin the proverbial cat - consider at least two very different formulations of the problem.

3. Picking the wrong language of variables. This happens when we use “a narrow set of disciplines, business functions, or variables in which to express the basic nature of a problem.”

Duck this outcome by using your head to manage and your heart to lead. As Dr. Mitroff writes, “Never produce or examine formulations of important problems which are phrased solely in technical or in human terms alone; always strive to produce at least one formulation which is phrased in technical terms and at least one other which is phrased in human terms.”

4. Narrowing the boundaries/scope of a problem. Err on the side of being inclusive and expansive in defining the scope of a problem.

Elude this issue by broadening “the scope of every important problem up to and just beyond one’s comfort zone.”

5. Ignoring parts/systems connections. This is what Roger did: he focused on just part of a problem rather than the whole system, “ignoring the connection between parts and wholes.”

Stay out of trouble by not fragmenting problems into isolated tiny parts. Follow Senge’s lead and look at the whole system, as sometimes the  interactions between important problems are more important than the problems themselves.