Based on your responses, your organization is well-prepared to design and implement the best applicable solutions for your most complex organizational problems.
Wow. Your organization—like all organizations, big or small—routinely faces complex problems that must be solved. Fortunately, your team is comprised of experienced solution designers who are up to the task.
However, it is important to recognize that your achievements are the result of diligence and dedication. Throughout the design of your solutions, you burn lots of energy convincing stakeholders, negotiating with hesitant parties, and reprioritizing scarce resources to ensure that your solutions are successfully implemented.
Unfortunately, situations change. Business environments change. In truth, after a while, people tend to forget the initial compelling reasons your solution was implemented, stakeholder enthusiasm recedes, and resources—including people—are redirected to newer, more-pressing issues due to organizational changes or brand-new complex problems that have arisen.
Solution designers must remain vigilant to ensure that their solutions stick in the long term. To do so, consider these three helpful tips from our book From Problem Solving to Solution Design.
1. Create a feedback loop
It may seem counterintuitive, but seasoned solution designers know that some of the trickiest solutions to sustain are the ones that appear stable. Changes in the organization might be happening, sometimes slowly, other times concealed beneath calm waters.
To spot the signs of change and potential instability, you must not forget to keep an eye on the intermediate results of your solution (outcomes), measure the solution’s short-term results (outputs), and regularly carry out an evaluation of its impact (long-term goals).
There is no use in performing these activities for the sake of performing them. The only reason you should measure anything is to ensure that you use the results to create a feedback loop into the original solution implementation process. Take this information, start all over again with the solution design cycle, compare the results you found to the original information you had when you designed your solution. This is the way to increase the sustainability level of your solution.
2. Don’t forget to go to “the balcony”
This tip applies to solution designers in the early stages of the process, as well as in the post-implementation stage. In one of their books, Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky use a very interesting analogy. They position an organization’s problem-solver as someone dancing in a ballroom, overwhelmed by the band, the music, and the other dancing couples. Problem-solvers, they assert, must step off of the dance floor, escape the daily routine, and go up to the balcony. This allows them to view the same chaotic situation from a new perspective.
In the same way, if you can detach yourself from a problem (or a solution implementation) and try to see it from a certain distance, you will have a better view of how things interact with each other. You can observe different conflicts going on that you couldn’t perceive from the “dance floor” since you were too close to it. It is far too easy to get tunnel vision with your own unique perspective surrounding a problem. Sometimes it’s important to remember to step away from the problem’s environment, look at all the stakeholders, the dynamics, the politics, and the individual goals. Then, even the most complex problems may have simple solutions.
3. Learn to succeed from failure
Even experienced solution designers like yourself will fail. It is to be expected with complex organizational problems.
When people make mistakes, it is so upsetting that they tend to miss the key benefit of failing, which is learning from it, applying the lessons learned to fix any issues, and succeeding the next time. Moreover, in many organizations, management is still concerned with being perceived as lenient for tolerating failures, keeping their teams from taking risks and growing.
To properly deal with the human factor when recovering a solution implementation from failure, provide its participants with psychological safety. Create a safe environment that enables candid feedback without the fear of retribution. Nothing valuable comes from wallowing in the blame game.
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