The Real Challenge You Face


Most organizations and consultants are focused on delivering solutions. 

Solutions are everywhere, and we talk about how to implement them, the impact they can have on the organization and their power. 

Companies are solution driven.

Consultants are solution providers…

And organizations are spending mountains of cash on solutions. 

Most of it is a waste. 

Here is why

An organization recognizes that there is some sort of problem and they are lured by the promise of a solution – the ease of picking it off the shelf plugging it in and getting on with their lives. 

 But it doesn’t work.

And the parade of solutions to fix the problem created by the previous round just leads to a chaos of band-aid solutions spiderwebbed throughout the organization. 

Maintaining these takes as much time and effort as any benefit they could ever provide. 

Meanwhile the problem persists, drawing down the organization.  The only difference is a layer of solutions that try to deal with the repercussions. 

And add a whole level of complexity.  

This happens because companies don’t spend enough time defining the problem. 

They think they have it defined, but they invariably define the problem within the confines of what they understand, using the same assumptions, the same systems and the same people that created the problem in the first place.

Real problem definition requires a new perspective. 

For example: We worked with one educational institution that knew their operations were failing them.  They were not connecting with their students, they were not connecting with their staff and everybody was unhappy. 

The obvious problem lay within how they were operating.  New technology could enhance communication and streamline interactions. 

So, the organization bought and implemented a new system.  It was an artificial intelligence management tool that was going to revolutionize everything.  They paid exorbitant fees, opened the box, installed the software and…

The problem persisted. 

But now, the inefficiency had been formalized with a software product nobody fully understood.  They ended up with the official, AI driven, system that nobody could work with and a world of workarounds that basically formalized the inefficiencies of the past.   

We’ve seen this many times and the problem isn’t the software. 

Often any one of solutions previously implemented would work, but the organizations didn’t fully define or understand their environment. 

They didn’t go beyond the obvious and dig into the crux of the problem.  They hadn’t fully defined the challenge they were addressing, and they did not understand the technology well enough to implement it properly.

In many cases, as with this university example, the implementation of the software exacerbates the problem because at best it codifies the problem – at worst it just adds another layer of complexity. 

A better process starts with spending time to specifically, completely and clearly define the challenges before you do anything else. 

Get beyond the obvious and define the core problem before identifying and implementing a solution.  Challenge the organization to reinvent and to put everything on the line.  

This seems obvious.  Everybody knows that to solve a problem you have to identify it.  But, you can’t solve a problem using the same thinking and at the same level that created it.  When you are in a system (or an organization) everything you do is defined by the system (or organization). 

Without taking a different perspective you invariably come back to the same conclusions.  Organizational assumptions constrain thinking in a way that is less likely to rock the organizational boat but also won’t address the root issues.   

To understand the root problem, you must approach the problem from a higher level, ask a different set of questions and take a bold perspective that may cut against previous assumptions. 

In the case of our educational client, the key was to look at their processes independent of technology and across organizational silos.  It turned out that the software was fine, but that their processes were broken. 

They wanted APA to fix the software, because that was their perspective.  But when we looked at it from the outside and considered the operations as a whole we could see that the processes needed to be fixed. 

We were able to identify those and use the investment that they had already made to improve the entire system.  But we had to redesign the way they worked. 

This revolutionized their operations – it created a new organization that connected with students and faculty and was able to respond to external challenges.  And since this mostly involved removing extra steps and reducing redundancies, it cut costs as well. 

So, before you start solving problems:  

  1. Remember that just implementing technology will not work.  You must also address the processes in the organization.  Technology can facilitate a solution, but it is not the solution.

  2. Define how the organization needs to change in order to operate more efficiently and the way you want it to.

  3. Take an external perspective, challenge your assumptions and look broadly at what needs to change. 

And remember: to implement a solution that works, you must first define the problem you are addressing. 

Then find a real solution that addresses the underlying issues.