Posts tagged problem solving
Can your team deliver innovation? Find out with my Christmas Gift to you.

Are you hop-skipping delightfully from one good idea to another but never getting things done? Or are you perfecting the present, making a great sailing ship while the rest of the world moves to steam?

I have seen businesses that are so innovative, nothing ever gets completed. They flounder as they flail excitedly from one awesome idea to another. They may not run out ideas, but do they do run out of cash.

Conversely, I have worked with highly adaptive organisations who grow, painstakingly, by tweaking past successes. They make few mistakes, but one day they end up with perfect sailing ship, while the rest of the world has moved to steam.

The Holy Grail is, of course, Delivered Innovation. This requires the best of both approaches but each extreme often sees the worst of each other thus making mutual collaboration difficult.

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This I have learnt—from Michel Drancourt

In July I will launch a monthly series of videos entitled, “This I have learnt.” It is said that experience is teacher who gives us the lesson after we need it, but with this series, we will short circuit the process.

I will be interviewing individuals who have had extended successful careers in the public and private sector. Some have excelled in both.

Through a short, honest conversation we will hear how each person has dealt with the challenges of work/life balance, strategy, leading others and making difficult decisions. Early recordings have highlighted some commonality in approaches, but also some interesting, particular (peculiar?) distinctions. It makes for fascinating viewing

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How the French butcher saved the working horse. Why the solution to a spin-off problem might be under your nose!
For every solution there is a spin off-problem. Horses were once effective work animals. But they were expensive, labour-intensive and prone to sickness. The tractor avoided these problems. But overtime, the tractor too has produced spin-off problems. Tractors have compacted land, are unable to tackle challenging terrain, and issue discharge which compromises environmental legislation on certain crops. Working horses have come to the rescue. Now equipped with GPS, horses do, in certain circumstances, yield higher returns on the land versus tractors. But these breds of working horses would have died out had it not been for the butcher. What are the spin-off problems arising from your success, and how can you manage them, before they manage you?
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Great businesses are built by great leaders—not prophets (part 2 of 3)
In an earlier posting, I reviewed whether mental illness was a pre-requisite for great leadership, and concluded that this was not the case. However, occasionally these far-reaching perspectives do match reality and, assuming the requisite knowledge, intellectual capacity and motivation are also in place, then the triumph of these problem-solvers can be spectacular; Winston Churchill provides but one example. But whilst excelling in a crisis is worthy and admirable, is it the definition of great leadership? I would argue not.
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The best Leaders focus on Problem A and minimise Problem B
The range of literature on strategy is perhaps only surpassed by the volume of literature on leadership. Though one may be a task, and the other an action, both share a dizzying range of definitions, many contradictory and most of no utility. I was once told that, “Getting a definition of leadership is like nailing jelly to the wall.” This amusing nod to the struggle in tying down an understanding of leadership might be acceptable in literary and academic circles, but Executives need something solid and useful. They need a practical approach to understanding leadership, one that opens up opportunities to personal and organizational improvement. We define leadership as the two-fold activity of identifying the problem to be solved and corralling the problem-solving resources to solve it—all for mutual benefit. Thus, problem solving is the key of life.
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Dare to take the test? Is your team cohesive around the strategy?
The primary role of the problem-solving leader is to focus the depth and diversity of the problem-solving team upon removing the obstacles preventing achievement of the business goal. However, despite many hours of well-intentioned discussions with colleagues, leaders are often frustrated (or even exasperated), that senior members of business teams often drive functional plans divergent to the core strategy, or miscommunicate the strategy to subordinates.
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Business Functions have brains too
Business Functions (IT, Legal, HR,Communications etc) sometimes feel like poor second cousins to the Commercial Unit when asked to participate in the corporate strategy process. This should not be the case. Functions should be vigorous and confident when communicating the value they can bring to business performance. But in so doing, they need to be clear on the impact they have upon their clients, and their strategic thinking should be as lucid and incisive as their commercial colleagues.
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What is strategy? A coherent response to a motivating problem.
The plethora of definitions of strategy is, quite simply, overwhelming. The range of strategy books; the breadth of activities conventionally contained within the strategy process; the inappropriate split between strategy generation and strategy implementation; the checklist of vision, values, mission, goals, objectives, initiatives, must-win, metrics; all of which has ensured that “everything is strategy” and thus obfuscates the real thrust behind the need for strategy in the first place.
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How to manage Chaos appropriately - a case study
I was asked recently to provide an example of how to deal with problems in the Chaotic domain. The attached 12 minute documentary* provides a vivid contemporary case study. The video focuses on the use of watercraft to aid the removal of hundreds of thousands of people who were stranded on Lower Manhattan at the time of the attack on the Twin Towers. Within less than an hour of the attack, none of the common commuter escape routes were available. The subways, bridges and tunnels had all been closed, and for office workers pushed to the extreme edges of Manhattan by collapsing buildings, escape by water seemed the only option.
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Extracting value from Fear and Loathing
About 12 months ago, I attended an early morning meeting whose sole purpose was to approve a short list of strategic options. Based on bravado over the bacon and eggs and the strong opinions regarding the ‘follies’ of certain investments, I was looking forward to a hearty debate prior to exultant agreement. However, within minutes it became clear that the dawn bluster was all wind. I think the phrase from the home state is, “big hat, no cattle.”
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