“The people with the Problem are the problem ….and the solution”.

In today’s reflection we contemplate the importance of engaging people in the identification of what’s not working as well as what to do about it. In many change efforts, the people in charge select the problem and the solution. The people working in and around the dilemma are then told what needs to change, how and when. It should come as no surprise that these communications are not always well received. Experience tells us all people do their work as it occurs to them and the vast majority are doing their very best. We have all seen examples where, in pursuit of change and improvement, someone is blamed for the outcome and killed off – figuratively anyway. Often despite such a drastic move, we often find the same problematic patterns and results soon emerge.
We recommend another approach: Ask the question – “What is the pressure in the system that makes people act the way they do?” This tends to reveal a much richer set of conditions any or all of which could be the real problem. But asking better questions won’t increase engagement.

As soon as you realize you are doing something “to “people and not “with” them – you are in trouble. Asking and answering the question with the “people with the problem” draws them into the possible, more hopeful space of adaptation. This approach is messier and takes longer than the aforementioned imposition of change from above – or at least it feels that way. As a friend of mine once said – “we never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over!

Here are some questions to consider within your organization:

–          What are the areas about how we are operating that aren’t getting the results we need?

–          As you think about those situations, in each case, who are the people with the problem?

–          How could you begin to engage them in exploring how the current approach is positioned to produce exactly the result over which you are concerned?

Good luck. Check back next week for the next edition of “Food for Thought.” Lead on!