7 Sources of Problems

When I sat down to write this article, my mind was filled with the news of the day. The headlines tell us that we are collectively facing a great number of problems: COVID-19, a struggling economy, divisiveness at every turn, geopolitical instability, the list goes on and on. Beyond the national and international issues, I hear from leaders like you every day who are challenged with myriad problems ranging from employee turnover to supply chain constraints or changes in the competitive landscape.

Critical to your success is your ability to solve problems on your own and with your team. Unfortunately, when faced with a problem, many leaders either ignore the problem or jump in and try to fix it without fully understanding the problem.

Might I suggest a different solution? One that avoids both abandonment and reckless abandon?

When you are faced with a problem, step back and clearly state the problem. Then, brainstorm various sources of the problem. To help you do that, consider these seven common sources to problems:

  1. Surroundings. Is something in the external environment (e.g., customer, competitors, regulatory, etc.) causing the problem?
  2. Strategy. Are your goals, initiatives, or plans leading to the problem?
  3. Systems. Is something in your processes, procedures, or underlying technology contributing to the problem?
  4. Structures. Have you organized your team or their work environment in a way that is leading to difficulties?
  5. Staffing. Are you understaffed or ineffectively staffed?
  6. Skills. Do your people have the skills, knowledge, and abilities that they need?
  7. Something else. Might something not listed above be causing the problem? Get creative.

This week’s tool and video are designed to help you to effectively explore problems. Use them on your own or with your team to address causes, not just symptoms.