A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.
— Charles Kettering, inventor and head of research for GM
Not everyone perceives a problem similarly. Like the elephant in the room, each person may experience the symptoms as distinct problems. By having people realize that they in fact share the same problem – it’s the elephant in the room(!) – the group transforms into a team with a shared purpose to solve the problem. The first step in any transformational change management process is clearly describing the shared problem and visualizing the world in which the problem is solved.
Excerpt from Teamwork 9.0
A large problem can seem like an elephant. Some people will describe the smell. Some will describe the noise. Some feel like they are being crushed or squeezed. People focus on the symptoms and effects—how they personally experience the problem. At some point, your team members begin to appreciate that although the symptoms they personally experience may be different, the root cause of the various symptoms is the same—there is an elephant in the room. Once the team recognizes that they all share a common problem—a common enemy, so to speak—the team shifts from focusing on one another to focusing on that common enemy.
The flip side of the terrible world in which everyone is suffering from their big common problem is the beautiful world that they imagine is possible once the problem is vanquished. Once everyone has had a chance to describe the problem in the first meeting, I adjourn the group and reconvene on the following day. At the second meeting, I ask every stakeholder in turn to describe that beautiful world and how it will improve their situation. This technique is called visualizing, and it creates a focal point for the group as they work through the subsequent steps in the problem-solving process.
How do you instill mission and purpose into a group of people to solve a shared problem? Do you carefully solicit the perspective of each team member? Do you collectively create a vision of the world once the problem is solved?
What’s the first step in problem solving? It’s realizing that you have a problem. Enneagram Type One is often called the perfectionist. They’re often the first type to point out that things aren’t right, aren’t as they should be. They also have a clear vision for how things should be. In problem solving, describing how things shouldn’t and should be corresponds to problem definition and goal. Problems and goals are two sides of the same coin and the first step in problem solving.
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