Do you even know what problem you are solving?

It is surprising how many times people are struggling with change initiatives when they have not even clearly defined the reason they are changing.

A team uncertain

Not too long ago, one of the senior leaders of an organisation attended a session where I explained the Nine Moments of Agreement, and asked me to come and do a workshop on this with their leadership team.

I took them through the model, and then asked them to give me any change they were currently working on where they experienced resistance and difficulty – so that we could quickly practically demonstrate how this model would work in that situation. They were quick to identify the biggest change initiative, and explain to me what they were busy doing.

The initiative was being put in place to solve a problem which related to efficient allocation of resources. I asked them to explain the problem to me, and after a few explanations I summarised my impressions into a short problem statement.

“Is this the problem you are trying to solve?” I asked the three most senior people in the room.

“That’s better worded and clearer than we ever had it!” they laughed.

I then looked around the room, and asked the rest of the people whether they agreed that this was the problem they were trying to solve. I didn’t get a definite “yes” or “no” but there were a myriad of questions suddenly popping up related to the problem statement I had written.

I simply bounced the questions back to the team, and within seconds there was a debate about that problem statement.

When the problem is unclear – the solution becomes diffused

From the lack of clarity of the problem statement it was clear why the proposed direction of the solution ended up being unfocused and unclear – which resulted in even less focus when it came to the implementation plan. The very project that was supposed to resolve the issue of ineffective allocation of resources, was ineffectively allocating resources to the change effort, due to lack of clarity on the problem that was being solved.

Not an uncommon problem!

Of course they are not unique at all. I have made that exact same mistake more times than what I can tell. It’s so easy to assume, especially when the symptoms of a problem are obvious, that everyone agrees on the problem. However, very often there is not only a lack of agreement, but you might be surprised at how difficult you find it to clearly express exactly what you consider the problem to be.

As the 1st Moment of Agreement this lays the foundation

Agreement on the problem, or the opportunity – on the exact reason why you believe a change is necessary – is the first of the Nine Moments of Agreement. Get this one wrong, and your whole solution is likely to become increasingly unfocused and shaky.

Are you experiencing some resistance to change in your environment right now?

Taking the time to ask people what they think the problem is that you are trying to solve, or what the opportunity is that you are trying to exploit, might just result in you discovering lack of agreement at this very first fundamental step.

To your success


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