The Pursuit of Problem-Free

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problem-freeOne of the assumptions I have about strategy and strategic planning is that there is no problem-free solution.  In other words, every solution has a set of problems that accompanies it.  How do you determine which solution to use?  Most groups simply go along with the loudest voice or the most powerful voice…or the most authoritative voice.  My recommendation is to identify the solutions that seem best…actually list all the reasonable ones…and then assess the problems that accompany each with brutal honesty.  Don’t play favorites.  If you need to, bring in a nonpartisan bystander.  This is a fantastic team exercise that will help your team work through the possibilities.  Once you’ve carefully listed out the problems of each solution (they’ll all have problems) your work is half done.  Next, make your decision about what to do based on the problem set you’d rather have.

Need a for-instance?  The decision to launch groups using a Small Group Connection is often challenged by people who don’t buy the initial premise that a group of adults can reliably figure out who the relative shepherd is.  Their belief is that some other process of identifying a leader has to be preferable.  My take?  I’ve been using the Connection strategy since about 2000.  In my experience it is a better way of finding the number of leaders you need for the number of people ready to join a group.

Now, I’m always finding new nuances of the exercise.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of problem-free is often related to the attempt to delay implementation.  I put up several posts over at StrategyCentral about Peter Block’s great book, The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters.  He makes a very similar point when he writes about the idea that many requests for more information (how much will it cost, how long will it take, etc.) are simply an attempt to delay.  For more on the idea from Block you can check out The Speed of Implementation.

Thoughts?  Let me know how it works for you!

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  1. Art Jensen on January 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks for the phrase “problem-free”. since I heard it from you last week in the Fraternity I have used it a dozen times. It really helps free people up to make decisions. Often, I think leaders hesitate because they fear they will create problems by making poor decisions. The truth is there are problems either way and choosing the problems we can live with, or the ones we maybe able to solve later is healthy for us.
    By the way we also use the “connection” events as both an assimilation strategy and a leadership pipeline. I agree there are problems but we have found it to be faster and more effective system, and so far we have had a lot of success with it.
    Art Jensen,
    Faith Promise Church

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