Right solution, wrong problem

Over the last three or so years, I’ve been working on a number of organisational design challenges and have come to see how these fall naturally into groups. More importantly, I’ve come to understand how some solutions just do not work for certain problems. So:

  • Technology solutions do not solve process problems. You can bung in a workflow tool or system but if your organisation has no idea of what process that tool supports or the reason for that process or whether the process is actually effective, the benefit you get from the tool will be limited.
  • Process solutions do not solve structural problems (for example, incorrectly structured teams, functions, position descriptions, insufficient numbers of staff). They also do not solve organisation cultural issues. Process solutions solve coordination/workflow/communication problems. They help to solve efficiency problems especially if you can automate processes (or outsource them).
  • Structural solutions do not solve personnel capability problems. It doesn’t matter how well designed your organisation structure is, if you don’t hire the right person for the job, you’re in trouble. Or if you do hire the right person but you have management capability issues, you’re in trouble. They also do not solve organisation cultural issues.
  • Personnel capability solutions do not solve leadership problems. Personnel capability solutions are composed of good training programs, properly constructed performance tracking and reward structures as well as talent recruitment and retainment programs. However, these do not solve organisation cultural issues.
  • Leadership solves leadership and organisation cultural problems. It doesn’t matter that you have highly capable staff in a well designed organisation with very good supporting processes, without good leadership, strategic thinking and clearly defined direction, you’re not going to get very far. Leadership when properly supported by organisational change management capabilities do solve organisation cultural issues.

Out-sourcing solutions to a degree sidesteps or reduces the parameters of many of the problems above. You still need good leadership but you get a new type of problem: integration problems. That’s a topic for another day.

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