What Problem Are You Solving?

In strategy execution, understanding the nature of the challenge before you embark on the solution is half the battle won. Each problem we encounter in our journey towards change is unique, requiring not just a solution but the right kind of solution.

Through years of driving strategy execution efforts through change & transformation, I have observed the effect of not knowing what type of problem we are solving. This has led to:

  • Solutions that are not fit for purpose
  • Spending valuable resources for very little reward
  • Using short-term fixes for long-term systemic problems
  • Frustrations, delays, repeat failure
  • Complicating the landscape and creating busyness

This is why recognizing what we’re dealing with is a skill and an art that is underestimated. There is an over-emphasis on solutions, but what good solutions are if they are not designed to solve the right problem?

In the strategy execution world, there are 3 distinct problem types: Design, Execution, and Adoption. Understanding the problem type is crucial—it shapes how we think about and tackle these challenges.

Let’s break these down in simpler terms and explore how to address them effectively.

1. The Design Problem: Crafting the Blueprint

 Imagine the Design problem as the foundation of a house. It’s all about the blueprint—what we’re building and why. This is often the toughest nut to crack because it involves deep thinking and strategizing. It’s the kind of problem that doesn’t get much love at the outset because it’s not as tangible as others. Yet, it consumes the most time and energy because getting the foundation right is critical. 

Addressing this requires bravery to admit there’s a problem in the first place and then creativity and patience to solve it. Remember, investing time here is investing in the success of the entire strategy execution journey.

Design problems are usually not seen or confused with execution problems. You know you have a design problem when resources (money, time, consultants…) do not help solve it. It is like having a mismatch between your Lego set and the shape you are asked to build.

Design problems take courage to solve because they mean we must stop, which is hard for an organization that wants things done yesterday and has too much to do. 

Ironically, working on the wrong solution (because you are addressing the wrong problem to start with) is way more costly than the perceived cost of stopping or pausing!

2. The Execution Problem: Building the House

Now, If Design is the blueprint of the house, then think of Execution as the actual construction of the house. It seems straightforward—just follow the blueprint, right? Yet, this stage is where the most visible problems occur. Solving these problems often involves better practices, changing direction, adding more resources, or increasing pressure. 

However, the secret sauce to better execution is not just about doing more but doing smarter—ensuring our actions align with the blueprint and adapting our strategies as we go.

The tricky part about execution is that it is way too familiar. The same teams do the same thing but with a different request/goal. When things become familiar, they become on auto-pilot, and you get more of the same but… at scale. i.e. if the previous execution of a set of projects was mediocre, you will likely get more of that if nothing changes in your execution practices.

The hidden risk with execution problems is that we are using the same level of thinking that created the problems in the first place.

This is not about improving technology or a fancy process integration tool. This is about upskilling the execution teams for higher quality practices and better execution practices.

The higher your execution capabilities, the better the teams will be in distinguishing execution problems from design ones.

3. The Adoption Problem: Making the House a Home

Finally, the People/Adoption problem. This is about turning that newly built house into a home everyone wants to live in. It’s perhaps the most misunderstood problem because it’s often lumped together with execution.

Yet, it’s distinctly about winning hearts and minds, ensuring everyone is on board and moving in the same direction. Solutions here aren’t about promising to “do better next time” but truly understanding and addressing the human element—through engagement, communication, and aligning performance rewards.

The part that is highly misunderstood in this category is that people’s adoption problems do not get solved in isolation; they need to be integrated into the solutions developed very early on in the process.

Adoption problems take time to solve, and there are no tips, tricks, workarounds or quick fixes here. Adoption needs to be co-designed and embedded in the way we design and execute.

Conclusion

Understanding these problems allows us to apply the right thinking and resources to each. It’s not just about solving problems but solving the right problems correctly. By doing so, we set ourselves up for not just any change but effective and sustainable change.

Let’s navigate these challenges with insight and empathy, transforming our landscapes with every step we take.

Till next week

Jess Tayel

Founder of the People of Transformation membership & community. 

Elevate Change & Transformation high-performing leaders to soar above the sea of sameness and achieve new heights in mastery, influence, & impact without the drag of going solo or slow progression.

PeopleofTransformation.com

If you are interested in learning more, here is how to connect with me and my work:

  • People of Transformation Programme: Join our community, aiming to create future-ready transformation & change leaders. Visit PeopleofTransformation.com for more information. The Feb/24 intake is now closed, and all spots have been taken. If you want to keep up to date with when the next intake will be and learn more, please sign up for the waitlist here or simply message me. Get in-depth & practical content, the mentoring and the support you need for the next level of change and transformation.
  • Get Personalized One-on-One Mentoring & Executive Coaching: Deepen your understanding with tailored guidance.
  • Corporate Workshops, Training, and Consulting: Reach out for a transformative conversation.
  • Speaking opportunities: Elevate your leadership team or conference with engaging talks on transformational leadership.

Get in touch with me by messaging me directly

Thank you


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