Whenever you come across a business problem, the next step is to solve the problem, right?
Actually not quite – first you need to ask the question:
“Is the problem really the problem?”
An effort to find a quick solution to what looks like the problem, may be a complete waste of time if the problem is not really the problem!
Example: An employee asks for a raise in pay. The problem could be defined as ‘an employee wants a raise’. I know from my experience that many times the actual problem could be:
- The employee is unhappy about something else and wants a raise to compensate for their unhappiness.
- The unhappiness could be a feeling of perceived unfairness compared to a coworker.
- It could be due to a misunderstanding of how much the employee thinks their coworker is paid.
Another example: A customer is slow-paying a bill. The assumption and the problem may be that the customer doesn’t have the money to pay the bill. The real problem might be a service issue. Maybe the customer experience wasn’t good but they just aren’t telling you the truth.
The problem is likely not comfortable or easy to solve.
It is more comfortable to solve an easy problem and avoid having to deal with a tougher and harder to define the problem.
What if you yourself are part of the real problem? It is definitely easier to avoid dealing with that issue!
At the end of the day, if you have done a good job of solving what you think is the problem, but the real problem has not been solved you have actually wasted all of your time.
In summary, before you attempt to solve a problem, take a little time to determine if the problem is really the problem. At the very least, this extra effort up front will solve the problem of trying to solve a problem that is not the real problem!