As this week’s title indicates, we want to explore the concept of fiercely attacking a problem without attacking the person who is attached to the problem (either directly or indirectly.)  Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, for most people, it’s much harder than it sounds. 

For so many of us, when we hear about a problem, or even a potential problem, the first reaction we have is something along the lines of “What the *%#!*^!”   The next thought is typically, “Wasn’t ‘Jim’ supposed to be on that?” 

And thus it begins . . . you (and sometimes you even engage your team in this) get organized around what Jim did or did not do. 
Next, you distance yourself from any blame with statements like, “I was afraid of this,” or “I told Jim to keep an eye on this.”  Yet, while you are busy attacking (either aggressively or passively) Jim’s performance, you are making a crucial error; you are failing to focus on an important problem that is currently effecting the organization.
Whether Jim’s actions were, in fact, the cause of the problem is not important until AFTER the problem has been properly and effectively resolved.  You may be surprised to learn that in most of the cases that we have consulted on, “Jim” was not the actual cause of the problem.  In fact, there are usually a number of reasons why the problem occurred, and any individual’s actions are typically at the bottom of a long list of reasons. 
The cause of most problems comes from a lack of clarity of: roles and goals, expectations, decision-making rights, when to communicate if things are off track, etc.   When you step back and really look at it, most problems are because the important and supporting structures are not in place to facilitate a shared understanding of how to move forward – both when things are going well and as they are getting off track. Blaming the individual who last touched the project creates mistrust, misalignment and missed opportunities. When things go wrong in an organization, the first person who becomes aware of it should contact the key stakeholders and bring the problem to their attention so that immediate steps can be taken to respond to the important concerns. Once the problem has been effectively resolved, it is time to listen to and learn from Jim, and everyone else who touched the project, what happened from their perspectives. Jim is now a vital source of information in helping to determine the cause of the problem.
In our next Monday Morning Business Coach, we will give you some specific guidelines for how to effectively attack a problem in your organization since blaming individuals does not foster an environment where the critical issues that contributed to things going awry in the first place, can be investigated and resolved.  Problems, when addressed well, can an incredible source of information for learning how to move forward in new and more effective ways!