Thursday, June 19, 2008

Admiring The Problem

Earlier this week I was watching Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News and he said something that resonated with me. These days, our nation and especially those in government, like to admire problems.

Admiring a problem is when you sit around and talk about the problem, but never take action to solve the problem. People keep talking about the problem all the while it grows and manifests itself into a situation that becomes out of control and chaotic. It happens every day in the halls of government and the boardrooms and meeting rooms of companies all around our nation.

As someone who has been employed in Corporate America and now services those very same companies in Corporate America as a consultant, admiring the problem is national pastime. I've been in those situations where you have a meeting to discuss the next meeting where we'll talk about the problem. It's insane!

This isn't a post to rail against our current leadership in Washington D.C. (although I'd love to do so and I have a lot to say on the subject). It's about how we as consultants serve a crucial role in business by stepping in when necessary to help our clients stop admiring problems. The way we get them to stop admiring problems is to have them ask better questions.

I was browsing through my book library this past weekend and found a book I read about four or five years ago. It's called QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life. This book, written by John G. Miller, is a quick read that teaches you to ask better questions to get better answers. There in lies the solution: the answer is in the question. I think if the leaders of our country as well as the leaders in many of our corporations ask better questions they'll arrive at a solution quickly and in an efficient manner.

Don't ask:

  • Why do we have to change this?
  • Who's at fault?
  • Where do we need to go from here?
These questions do nothing but allow the problem to continue. There is nothing objective about them.

Instead, ask the following:
  • How can we change this for the better?
  • How can I (or we) solve this problem?
  • What do we need to do to solve this problem?
  • What resources do we have available to solve the problem?
See a pattern? What and How are the operative words. They are proactive and are a call to action.

Try it today in your work (especially when consulting with your clients) and in your personal life. Eliminate the words why, where, who, etc. from your vocabulary. If you do, I think you'll see that you will stop admiring problems and start taking action toward solutions.


Chris Blanchard said...

Great observations, Justin! The 'problem' with politics is that the system is designed for gridlock. In politics, having the 'issue' is always more important than having the solution. If we solve the problems, then the need for the parties becomes moot.

Imagine if we actually cut taxes enough that everyone was happy. Imagine if we reversed global warming, and created sustainable, affordable health care and social security systems. Imagine if the education system turned out graduates ready for a wired global world. What reason would there be for Democrats or Republicans to exist.

So government will always have lots of problems, and few solutions.

Justin Beller said...

Politics aside, some businesses can be just as bad. An experience I had with one local company operated in the same fashion. If the problem is solved, what would be the purpose of having "XYZ" department?

In today's economy, companies are cutting staff left and right because of high costs and bloated payrolls. Think what would happen if they actually asked the right questions to begin with? Organizations would have been properly formed and staffed, little to no redundancy and accountability for the actions and results that take place in the organization.