Monday, March 3, 2014

Searching for the Wrong Answers

After sharing for nearly 30 minutes about all of the different problems in her organization, she asked me a question, “So, what is the one thing I need to do to fix this?”

My answer startled her, “Quite looking for simplistic answers to complex challenges.”

Too many times this winter, I have witnessed leaders searching for a simplistic answer within a complex and non-linear situation. They assume that there is a singular, quick fix which will solve all problems and generate instant success. They expect all consultants to open up their magic bag of tricks and produce an amazing tool, recipe or secret sauce which will transform night into day, generate total enlightenment, or better yet achieve full and sustainable alignment. While I would love to have a cape, a wand and a wizard’s hat to make this magic take place, I have lived a fair bit and swum in the deep end of the pool enough to know that there are not always going to be simple answers to complex problems.

First, recognize that not everything changes in a linear fashion. Sometimes, we have to retrace our steps to make some things change, i.e. going backwards may at times be going forward. For example, we may need to restate why we are doing something as a company and what are the risks of not doing them well before we can move on to how we want to do something. Starting with what to do may not always generate clarity and commitment.

Second, in the beginning, we may need to take multiple actions and then wait to see what happens before moving to the second stage. While I love to plan my work and then work my plan, there are many times right now when unforeseen variables cause us problems over time.

Finally, people are not things. We think, move, and interact. We are dynamic and self-organize at the drop of a hat. We also are, for the most part, self-preservationist who would rather be safe and comfortable than stretched and over-whelmed.

This week, quit looking for simple answers to complex problems. It is time to honor that the world is dynamic and then move forward accordingly.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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