The problem is

Published on 2020-04-04 by John Collins. Please follow me on Twitter for more: 

Have you ever worked with people who regularly start sentences with “the problem is…”? I call these people “problem staters”, and they can fall into the trap of going around stating problems all day.

Please don’t get me wrong, in order to fix a problem you first need to identify that it exists, so problem staters have that first step nailed. The challenge is getting them to move to the second step: helping to identify the solution. I call this being “solution oriented” (as opposed to “problem oriented”), and it can take a big coaching effort to get problem staters to arrive here.

"I tell my teams one simple rule: if you identity a problem, you are part of the solution. "

In the worse-case scenario, you have problem staters identifying “somebody else's problem”, where they feel their role is simply to identify a problem that somebody else will fix. This can be a real disaster in an organization if left unchallenged, when you can end up with a culture where nobody is accountable for owning any solutions. Problem stating can even be used as an excuse to invent blocking issues.

I tell my teams one simple rule: if you identity a problem, you are part of the solution. Nobody gets to walk away, and I will pin a action on them if they try. Eventually they learn its better to state a solution after the fact, rather than state the problem and hope someone else will solve it.