exploring life, leadership and more......



An opportunity to learn


Every incident in life and leadership lends to those so inclined, an opportunity to learn.  Analytically, these things will involve introspection best approached by problem solving.  At least given my little red wagon of tools, I use problem solving techniques.


I.  Operationally define the problem

Operationally defining the problem is different than "define the problem."  In my experience when you ask someone to define the problem, the result is an attempt at quick fixing the problem by defining it as its possible cause. For example:

The car won't start

You are told, "the car won't start" and I ask you to define the problem.  One answer would be "the problem is the person's car won't start."  Of course, the answer is you can't define the problem with the information given.

Did the person try to start the car or tell you something they had been previously told?

Did the person try to start the car and flood it?

Had the car been starting slowly, and now has stopped even that?

Was someone aware of a need that had not been addressed?  belts slipping, old battery, bad alternator?

You might say, I've tripped over my own premise and jumped to problem solving vs. looking to operationally define the problem.  o.k. 

The car won't start.  Is the operational definition that the car won't start.  The car not starting is only a problem if someone intended to use it and unexpectedly found the car wouldn't start.  That car may have been out of operation the past week.

The car won't start and I have no way to get to work.

The problem changes, no the car still won't start.  However, getting the car to start may not really solve anything for this person.  They merely made a statement.  Perhaps needing a way to work is the operationally defined problem.

The 5 why's

Asking why in search of the operational definition of a problem is an easy and effective start.  I usually ask "why is that a problem."  A different question.  I'm not asking why the car won't start, am I.  I'm asking why is the car not starting a problem.  Different approach and I feel more effective. Again another level.


Some things are obvious

Some things are obvious once the data is organized

Some things require more powerful methods

Some things which are obvious are untrue



more to come...ed 11/22/2000






site links:                                    

homepage  speed  drivin'  people are never the problem

head and shoulders postulates   car wreck Daimler/Chrysler

culture shift  defining moments  more on change

thoughts      first, break all the rules

business @ the speed of thought   Semantics, say what you mean

Personality of a Leader

The case against being loyal to the culture