Got Problems? Name Them!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a large company that is experiencing a myriad of problems in their day-to-day operations.  None of these problems are too big to be resolved, but the sheer number of them felt overwhelming to the company leaders.

We planned a two-day retreat with the senior leadership team.  During the meetings, I had them beak up into three groups.  One of the exercises was to have each group make a list of what they thought the “Elephants” were.  The idea was to have them take 15 to 20 minutes and clearly state what the big problems were that the company was facing.

Each group wrote down four or five very specific issues or challenges.  Then we went from group to group having them name them one at a time.  I wrote each on a flip chart as they called them out.

After about twenty minutes of discussion, we had our list completed.  Obviously, some of the answers had overlapped, and some had been subsets of others.  But we had a good list! 

As we looked at the two sheets, it all started to make sense.  We had named the problems!  What a sense of relief!  Next, we looked at all of them and began to decide in what order they needed to be tackled.  #1, #2, #3, #4, etc.

The good news?  Every problem listed could (and will!) be resolved.  The key was to get clarity on exactly what they were.

So the two steps are these:

  1. Clarify what the individual problems are.  (Put them on paper!)
  2. Rate in order of importance.  (Don’t go after them all at once.  Focus on one or two.  The other can wait.)

Another important point . . .

These leaders are people with a great deal of ability!  They are very sharp folks.  Why did they not do this themselves?

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.  They were so close to the problems that they were unable to have the proper perspective.  All of the issues tended to blend together.  It wasn’t a lack of ability—it was lack of clarity and perspective.

Sometimes you just need an outside set of eyes before you can move forward.

Nearly every problem can be broken down into parts, which are more easily managed as parts, than they are as a whole.

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