June 2015 | Strategy
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributors: Gilbert Probst, PhD; Managing Director, Leadership Office and Academic Affairs, and Dean of the Global Leadership Fellows Program at the World Economic Forum; co-author of Tackling Complexity: A Systemic Approach for Decision Makers.
For optimal and systemic decision-making, identify (and solve) the real problem.
It’s a common leadership dilemma: you design and execute a solution, only to discover that you weren’t solving the real problem. And that’s a best case scenario. In some situations, your “solution” could create one or more new problems.
Symptoms and events, such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers, can look convincingly like the problem, and the availability of data — lots of data — leads many leaders to assume that finding solutions to complex problems only requires detailed information about the presumed direct causes and the harmful effects of the problem.
However, objective data is rarely sufficient to analyze the complex, and often hidden, dynamics that underlie major problems. And time has shown that those who hold a single point of view or perspective on a problem rarely succeed. Instead, expand your viewpoint and look both into and beyond the massive amounts of data that are now available to find the root causes to prevent similar events from happening again in the future.
How can you better identify — and solve — the real problem? The six action steps below can help guide decision-makers through a systemic process.
By considering each of these steps, you can help ensure that you are focusing on the right problem, and that you’ve considered the ramifications of potential solutions. The process reduces the downside of dealing with complex decisions and increases your competence in taking the calculated risks that all leaders must take.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, Director of Innovative Learning Solutions at Wharton Executive Education. It is jointly sponsored by Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, Wharton Professor of Management Michael Useem, Director. Nano Tools Academic Director is Professor John Paul MacDuffie, Professor of Management at the Wharton School and Director of the Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation (PVMI) at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management.
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