Friday, August 13, 2010

Solving "Problems"...or maybe not

...not all problems are equal. Some problems are temporary in nature. Unfortunantely, we are often incapable of discerning a temporary problem from a permanent one in the moment, and the result is that we create a system or a process that ultimately inhibits our future creating.

The more structures we have to navigate in order to do our work, the more difficult it is to do our best work. When we are required to resolve the dissonance of complex systems, reporting relationships and accountability structures just in order to get our objectives and check off our direction we will begin to lose our drive to do brilliant work. Over time, this complexity only pulls entire organizations toward systematic mediocrity.

Have you ever found something that worked for you once, so you started to incorporate it into all of your work?...These examples follow the same "permanent solution to temporary problem" mindset we must be careful to avoid.

Each time we add a system or process to our creating it increases the amount of energy required just to get to the actual work. These sub-problems that must be solved significantly zap our ability to engage effectively, especially in a create-on-demand role.

--excerpts from Permanent Solutions To Temporary Problems 7/30/10 by Todd Henry, found on the blog, article recommended by David Norman

Remember the post about the five attributes of a church in decline? One of those attributes was complex structure. The natural tendency of organizations is to add complexity to their structure and systems. The longer an organization exists, the more complex is typically gets. (Think government, big business, denominations...and older churches.)

One of the reasons I think new church plants are so effective reaching new people is because they are typically very lean. The structure is simple. The ministry strategy is very focused. The mission is clear. Then, as the church ages, the ministry strategy gets more complex as multipe new programs and events get layered on. Eventually growth slows or plateaus as the complexity increases, and then our solution is new structure or systems or rules to fix the problem.

If there's a problem, our natural tendency is never to do less - we always try something new.

If there's a problem, our natural tendency is to increase controls - we think people are the problem and we implement rules and policies to make sure they get it right.

What is the solution to the problem is few controls? What if the fix is less complexity?

Are you willing to get focused and lean again?
--excerpts from Complexity Leads to Systematic Mediocrity 8/2/10 by found on

This stuff reminds me heavily of a sesson at last week's Global Leadership Summit where Andy Stanley lectured on "The Upside of Tension". Below are his notes:

I. Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.
A. For example: What’s more important? Excellence V. financial prudency, family V. work, marketing V. sales, and flexibility V. systems: you can’t resolve or solve, you can just manage!
B. If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create a new tension.
C. If you resolve any of those tensions, you create a barrier to progress (a new tension, but not always immediately visible/evident)
D. Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions but on the successful management of those tensions.

II. To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage, ask the following:
A. Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?
B. Are there mature advocates for both sides?
C. Are the who sides really interdependent?

III. The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization.
A. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.
B. Create terminology: “I guess that’s a tension we just have to manage.”
C. Inform your core.
D. Continually give value to both sides.
E. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.
-Understand the upside of the opposite side and the downside of your side
F. Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day
-need passionate enough people to champion their side, but mature enough people to understand this reality
G. Don’t think in terms of balance (or just or fair). Think rhythm (or season).

Conclusion: As a leader, one of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is to differentiate between tensions your organization will always need to manage vs. problems that need to be solved.