We’re besieged by “short-termism” in an age of 24/7 hyper-connectivity. With the empowerment of social technologies, everybody can be a pundit, proffering an interminable stream of quick fixes.
When faced with a problem, you can virtually hear the “guns” firing away…
“Why don’t that division do it this way?”
“The answer is so apparent that its painful to even tell you about it!”
“Its ridiculous for your department not to consider this solution!”
Now hang on a second. Before you release that volley of arrows, consider the following:
1) There are many sides to an issue. What you feel may perhaps be a biased and subjective view to a multi-faceted issue. Often, corporate challenges are a lot more complex than what one first perceives.
2) People are selective communicators. Studies by psychologists have shown that we have multiple cognitive biases which dictate what we say or do. These often result in us humans behaving irrationally.
3) The underlying causes to a problem may be so deep rooted and ingrained that a blanket solution isn’t possible. There are multiple reasons why certain “pains” persist: political power plays; vested interests; infrastructural limitations; strongly held beliefs. Or just the sheer difficulty in implementation. Cursory analyses alone may not reveal these factors.
4) We are not as omniscient or omnipotent as we assume ourselves to be. Huge and ballooning at times, our egos compel us to wear blinkers in our assessment of the best way forward.
How do we then scale these walls?
For a start, learn to take a step back from the issue, reflect and think more deeply and carefully about its various points. Ask yourself if you’re being brutally honest about the situation. Disengage from the need to come up with “10 Ways to Fix the World” so that you can dive more deeply into an issue.
Next, talk to as many people as possible. They can be your colleagues, suppliers, customers, clients, bosses or any other persons involved in the problem. If time permits, read the archives to understand what solutions were proposed in the past. Learn what worked and what sputtered.
Recruit a diverse team of resource persons. Bounce off ideas with them. Include a mixture of external parties so that they can provide fresh insights that are unapparent to internal stakeholders. Blend them with the perspectives of staff who possess an intimate knowledge of the inherent challenges.
Remember, however, that the culture of the team must be open, transparent and honest. Set the tone straight from day one and weed out perpetual naysayers who are only interested in slinging mud at others. Encourage upfront dialogue and discussions without any censorship, but ensure that the team eventually arrives at a solution.
After you’ve arrived at a possible course of treatment, remember to test your approach with those whom it would affect the most. Find ways to do a quick prototyping exercise and to possibly fail quickly (and less painfully) before rolling out the full McCoy.
Ask, enquire and verify if what you’re doing is moving along the right track as opposed to careening off in a tangent.
Finally, measure your milestones and be unafraid to switch trajectories midstream if necessary. I know that it is extremely painful to abort 6 months into a project. However, cutting one’s losses halfway may be better than bringing an initiative into worthless completion.
Diving deeply into any organisational issue requires determination, political savvy, experience and wisdom. While it can be sheer hard work navigating its often tangled web, doing so could reap a fruitful harvest of sustainable solutions that address the root causes of a problem.