In my coaching practice, I regularly am asked to help solve problems. Usually, the request for help comes with a problem and its solution, asking me how to implement it.
I like these situations as they are a challenge during which we have to work our back from the solution or the problem to an analysis of the problem itself to find how to apply the suggested solution. Very often it leads to uncovering a variety of other ways to understand the problem and what is causing it.
It’s a challenge as someone who sees a solution wants to work on the solution without being interrupted. Going back to an analysis in such a situation feels to a coachee like going backward and losing time. For the coach, it can feel risky as mutual trust is being tested.
But it’s necessary.
In almost all the cases I’ve seen, either the problem had not been fully understood or the solution wasn’t adapted to the situation. And it’s getting worse.
In today’s connected economy the sources impacting a situation and thus involved in the given problem have grown. The rising number of impacts transformed even simple problems to complex problems.
Metcalfe’s law gives an idea of the growing complexity as it evaluates the effect of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. based on the description. In this description, for example, two telephones can only make one connection, five can make 10 connections, and twelve can make 66 connections.
Bringing this to problem-solving, it means that if there is a simple cause and effect situation, then a problem can only have one cause. If that same problem has 4 causes, then there are 10 possible cause and effect connections which need to be analyzed. With 11 possible causes for a problem, we will have 66 connections which would need to be analyzed. In fact, in such a situation we already have a “system”, i.e. a situation in which several elements can impact each other which then impact the other areas of the “network”. It has become a dynamic and simple cause and effect analysis will not work as efficiently anymore.
This may be why in such situations problems and their symptoms will often be confused.
Taking the time to analyze and understand the problem is more difficult but it is worth the effort. Taking the first solution and testing it might end up like poking in the dark.