Consultant Week, Vol 2 of 5 - The Problem

Continuing the Consultant Week theme, let us continue to see the boaters in their trials and tribulations at docking the boat.

The boaters kept seeing the problem without effective solutions and in one case there were two people docking the boat and the other case there were four people. These were some of my observations:

The boat with two people had an easier time of it, though they appeared as if that was the first time they had ever gone boating, put a trailer down the ramp and mounted the boat on the trailer. I thought I was watching a slapstick comedy show. Maybe it was true. Maybe they borrowed a boat and had never done this before. It sure appeared that way, but more likely they have done this before, and the thought of that made it more funny. Communication between the two was minimal. In this case, I think that helped. In the case of the boat with four people, two men and two women, the communication was continuous. Not one of them spoke a word of English, but it is obvious what things they were talking about. In case anyone on that boat were to forget, someone would remind them of the problem. I'm sure there were potential solutions shouted as well, but since the problem kept reoccurring, they kept talking about the problem.

Does any of that sound familiar in your company or in your home? It does to me. I've seen this scenario played over and over in various companies I have worked for and even participated in it. We have an objective that is an agreed objective, but we keep looking at the problem and making the same old suggestions, or trying the same old things. We think it is brainstorming but the brains are doing something else. We're just too close to it.

Take this slowdown of the economy that we are experiencing right now. My partner and I see lots of businesses and we see many of them just like these boaters. They keep talking about the problem (the economy, sales are slow, no traffic, incomes dropping, layoffs, cutbacks, the boss doesn't want to spend any money, gas prices are over $5 a gallon, did you hear about?, did you know that?, isn't it awful that?, the government should. . .) over and over from every angle they can. It brings a certain satisfaction to state the problem and then state it from a different angle, quote sources, statistics, etc. It is a powerful thing for us but all of it reinforces the problem. Yep! It's a problem all right! Ain't that just the way things go. . . you're doing well and then there comes this. . . problem. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. No rest for the weary. More affirmations about the problem of course.

Then we decide that we have to fight the problem. Attack it. We have to fight to keep costs under control, attack the problem head-on, weed out the culprits, baton down the hatches, alert the media, stop the bleeding, control expenses. More problem. Though we may be seeking solutions, really we are just restating the problem. It sort of becomes an excuse for the solutions. "Oh, we can't do that because of the. . ." "Whenever this has happened before, we. . ." "It's just going to happen again. . ." "Management should. . ." and "I don't see why we have to. . ." It's a wonder any solutions can be implemented.

The problem always has external causes. It is never internal. It is the economy, the weather, the boss, the company, the supplier, the delivery people, whatever. It is always something or someone external. Do you think there might be some internal causes that create all or a good part of the effect? Is it possible? People say sales are slow. We see them doing nothing about it. We suggest a thing or two and they tell us all the problems with that, but that problem is not what the problem really is. The real problem is not seeing the real problem. Its not what happens to us that matters, but how we deal with it. The visible problem may only be a symptom of the real problem.

So, the first step to solutions is stating the problem and then getting someone on the outside (consultant) to look at it and give an opinion of what they think the real problem is, while refraining from restating the problem (symptoms) over and over. Wouldn't it be interesting if we find it is not externally caused, but that is just a symptom of the real problem? Let us all understand the real problem, and then we will move to potential solutions in the next issue tomorrow.

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