We posted COVID, STRATEGY, AND WHAT WE KNOW FOR SURE a few weeks ago. Here are some further comments and observations about the fourth “known” — the proliferation of complex problems.

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Gee, about a year ago, things were simple. Put together a good strategy and ride it into the future. Sweet!

BAM! COVID-19! >>>>> Complex problems on the rise.

Pre-Covid problem resolution

In the “good ole days” (2019) most of our problems could be address singly. Expertise and experience could be applied because, as the T-shirt says, we’ve “been there and done that.”

  • PROBLEM? Know that a problem exists. Although problems should be “obvious,” that’s not always the case.
  • PROBLEM! Define the problem. Problems are often obscured by their symptoms. You need to look beyond the symptoms to find their cause. That’s where you’ll find the real problem.
  • P.R.O.B.L.E.M. Describe the problem with respect to its urgency, importance, clarity, complexity, and ownership.
  • STRATEGIES? Develop strategies to solve the problem. Except for the simplest of problems there are usually more than one way to resolve them.
  • STRATEGY! Select the best strategy. Use known and accepted criteria to evaluate all of the strategies and pick the best.
  • IMPLEMENT! Implement the strategy. What did your assessment tell you about your chances of success?
  • REVIEW! Review the results and improve your skills. Learning and improvement takes place using a rigorous after-action review process.

Post-Covid problem resolution complications

  • The “new normal” is slowly evolving. Do you describe the problem in the context of your old business or should you define the problem in the context of your reinvented business?
  • How urgent and important is the problem in a pandemic world. Can you even triage your suite of problems until a vaccine is on the horizon?
  • How many options are really available given the level of uncertainty? Will everything be built on a foundation of tentative assumptions?
  • Is there a “best” strategy to resolve the problem(s) or should you satisfice for the time being?

Advice while you wait for the new normal

Spend some quality “think time” focused on your business model and how you think it might evolve. Solve all big problems in the context of your evolving business model. Build a few scenarios and track them. For example, how does the problem look in a “shrink then grow” scenario? What about a “get acquired” scenario?

Assess every assumption you’ve made about business survival and success. What problem resolutions impact, or are impacted by, these assumptions. For example, what assumptions are you making about your workforce? About your customers?

Similar to using a Project Management Office to coordinate projects in your company, you might want to institute a Problem Resolution Team to integrate the efforts to resolve the big problems facing your company. Complex problems have dynamic interrelationships and few of your problems will stand alone. Take a systems approach.

We are in the process of revising our existing offering for Solving Complex Business Problems . That in itself is a complex problem. Wish is luck.

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