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  • Gladys Agawi

HOW TO STOP PROVIDING SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS THAT DO NOT EXIST

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes on thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.” Albert Einstein”




Problem solving is part of your dayto-day life, business, and career. You contemplate about not liking your job, your team does not get along, your company is not growing, or your personal and business relationships are growing apart or not fulfilling their commitments.What really happens is that people will seek what they set themselves up to seek and will find what they set themselves up to find. People

spend too much time finding solutions that fit their narrative rather than ensuring a clear understanding of the outcome they want to achieve. By clearly defining the outcome, problem, or change you would like to see, you then have the criteria needed to focus your efforts and actions on the relative and important solutions.


You may find that your desired outcomes bring a different problem than what you originally stated. But what is important about understanding your outcome and problem first is that you have an aligned direction to follow and solve. People mostly link their problems to a lack of something, such as, a lack of money, time, trustworthy personnel, or trustworthy personal/professional partners. When you think not liking your job is the problem and your solution is to quit your job and get another job, ensure you first understand the outcome you want from your job. If you do not, your solution will not align, and you will begin hating the new job. It will lead to anger, frustration, and sadness within you but also those impacted by your decision.


A CEO of a rapidly growing company was explaining why she was not spending more time on the large, critical, strategic issues that desperately needed her attention. She made the initial mistake of focusing on a general problem that would have her providing solutions to a problem that did not exist. She said the problem was not having a trustworthy sales manager and her solution was to fire the sales manager. With that stated problem, she could not develop the right solutions that would achieve her outcome of profitable organisational growth. She refocused and reframed the problem as follows:


• Cannot make a profit with discounts the sales manager provides new customers

• Delivery date promises by the sales manager are impossible to meet

• CEO spends six hours per day reviewing contract terms for new clients


Reframing the problem provided her with more specifics and potential alternative solutions to achieve her desired outcome – profitable organizational growth. Now she understands better what questions to ask to solve the issue in the simplest and most effective way. Rather than firing the sales manager, she can reset the company’s discount strategy setting parameters to ensure a profitable sale. She can set up a must adhere to delivery guidelines. She can also delegate to compliance contract terms. You must consciously spend the time defining a problem to have successful change whether in your marriage or other personal partnerships, business, leadership, or team relationships. Without the proper framing, you cannot be certain that your focus is on the right issue. How you frame or describe the problem can determine the kind of options addressing the problem, understanding others’ perceptions of its importance, and the achievement of the desired solution.


Here is another example of a wrong problem that could impact the organization’s profitability. Disney’s amusement parks received a lot of criticism for the hour-long queues for every ride. I do not like the long lines at any amusement park. The Park managers were stumped. The only way to shorten the wait was to create more rides or allow fewer visitors into their parks: both costing millions. After a group of designers were hired to evaluate the situation, they reframed the problem from queues to long at every ride to being bored during long wait times. They did not invest millions, but simply increased the value of time and added themed music, videos, and introduction stories to the waiting areas.


Reframing problems is essential to transform difficult demands into workable innovations. Answering the right problem in the right way has a 95% dependency on the correct framing of the problem. What are your current problems that need to be reassessed, refocused, and reframed to ensure you execute the right solutions? The questions below will help you get to those answers.


• What do you want from your job, team, leaders, business, or personal/professional relationships?

• What is a key problem that currently exists that is keeping you from achieving your outcome? Write a one sentence problem statement that summarizes the issue.

• Brainstorm different perspectives and solutions, include others as necessary to gain their perspective.

• Identify what questions should you ask to help you get to the root cause of the problem.


Life is problems. Living is solving problems. It is time live and start solving the right problems in your relationships, careers, and businesses. Start solving the problems right and quickly. It will result in a better life, business, and career.


“If you are unable to know the cause of the problem, you will not be able to solve it.”


Article by: Gladys Agwai


As featured in Business Day:



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