Robservation 28 – Overcoming leaders that have already solved a problem in their head

Hi, and welcome to the next Robservation. In today’s discussion, I want to talk about one of the major roadblocks to effective organizational problem solving, even as deep as incident analysis.

My Robservation is that too many people try to solve problems in their heads, and too fast. This gives them a bias that not only impacts how the problem gets talked about and solved, but what actions are taken to remedy the problem. I’m sure many of you can relate to having a leader or manager tell you what the problem is (even if it is not the problem identified); what the cause of the problem is (even if there has been no formal analysis); and what they have already done to fix it (with the expectation that the problem is fixed right and there isn’t much need to go further).

If we put this challenge into the science of HOP – problems solved in your head are actually done in knowledge-based performance mode, where you don’t know what you don’t know; with a probability that you are wrong between 10% and 50% – okay closer to 50% by data! How do I know this? Well, if you haven’t gathered data and information, and if you haven’t identified the GAPS in your knowledge (what do we know and what do we not know), then you HAVE to be in the knowledge-based mode because you don’t have enough information to be in rule-based.

Unfortunately, too many leaders THINK they know the problem and the answer. They will show the triggers for being in knowledge-based performance mode of “I think,” “I believe,” or I am almost sure,” even while telling you how right they are. Some go as far as dictating that the analysis of the incident “go that way” and fix the problem as THEY describe it, in the WAY they describe it.

This Robservation was prompted by something happening out by the front of our neighborhood where at the entry turn, the ground and curb are all torn up. In fact, they have stopped trying to fix it! Oddly enough, when the neighborhood put in a median with plants in it to make things look pretty, they didn’t make the entry big enough for the trucks that need to access the neighborhood to build the houses (kind of an important thing for the workers to be able to access the place they need to work). When they first started building houses, some trucks would have to go up onto the curb and tear up the grass, OR they would have to run up on the median and tear that up. The curb is the obvious, easiest, and least destructive of the two options, neither of which is good for the driver of the vehicle. But true to form, the homeowners association, without ever setting foot at the site, solved the problem by hiring someone to put big rocks at the corner to deter people from going up on the curb. It is like they believed that the people were ruining their grass because they didn’t have anything better to do, instead of understanding that the plans for the entry that THEY approved and THEY built were the systemic drivers of the problem. Ultimately, several trucks were destroyed because they didn’t know the huge boulders had been put there, and there was no good lighting, so when they rounded the corner, they took out the side of their vehicle, and in one case the undercarriage! Oh, you should have heard the “they should have known better’s” and the “that will teach them’.” The homeowner’s association finally had the boulders removed, and I guess they are just going to let the area get torn up until all of the houses are built – I don’t know?!?!

Help open leaders’ minds to the PROCESS of gathering data and information, and doing a good GAP analysis BEFORE they start talking about what they KNOW went wrong and what they THINK will fix it. Move them to a rule-based mode where their probability of error is closer to 1%. Problems will be solved faster, with more effective corrective actions, and the first time. Visit our website to get more information on how to solve and prevent incidents. And remember, Intentional Leadership starts with YOU.