Tag Archives: Design

First, Clearly Diagnose (Define; Identify; Clarify) the Problem – Then, and Only Then, Design the Solution

First, read these excerpts and points from Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy:  The Difference and Why It Matters:

A leader’s most important responsibility is identifying the biggest challenges to forward progress and devising a coherent approach to overcoming them.

A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them.

…the term “strategy” should mean a cohesive response to an important challenge. Unlike a stand-alone decision or a goal, a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions that respond to a high-stakes challenge.

…strategy focuses and coordinates efforts to achieve a powerful competitive punch or problem-solving effect.  Bad strategy tends to skip over pesky details such as problems.

• The four major hallmarks of bad strategy:  #2 — Failure to face the challenge.

• The centrality of the kernel.  The kernel of a strategy contains three elements:
• #1  A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge.
• #2  A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge.
• #3  A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy.

And this (from the “first Google response” to the search term:  “strategy define”):

Strategy:  A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

And now, this:

The classic approach to persuasion is Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.  It has five elements, but it boils down to two:  Problem, Solution.  From the Wikipedia page:

Attention: Hey! Listen to me, you have a PROBLEM!
Satisfaction: But, I have a SOLUTION!


In the world of business, we have had kind of a run on the “solutions” end of things.  Many companies put “solutions” in their very name, and many others find a way to offer “solutions” in their promises to customers.

This is a very good thing to offer – solutions.  And until we have solutions, and implement them (back to the centrality of execution), we will not move forward.

But there is a very important – make that crucial — prior step.  Before there can be solutions, there needs to be a very clear, a crystal clear, and absolute accurate diagnosis of, and understanding of, the problem(s).

So, whatever else you do in your business life, spend a hefty chunk of time on this:  “what is the problem we’re dealing with right now?”  Until you know, with precision, the answer to that question, you should not even begin thinking about “what is the solution?”

If strategy leads to a plan of action, (“a set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy”), it really does matter to know just what the issue is that you are dealing with with your plan of action.

First:  what is your problem?
And then, and only then:  What is the solution? 

The Necessity of Constant Improvement & Innovation in an Insecure Business Era

Every business is successful until it’s not.  What’s disconcerting, though, is how often top management is surprised when “not” happens.
Gary Hamel, The Future of Management

What limits innovation in established companies isn’t a lack of resources or a shortage of human creativity, but dearth of pro- innovation processes.
Few organizations seem capable of proactive change. How do we explain this?  
I think the answer lies, in part, with the difficulty we have in identifying our deeply engrained habits.
Gary Hamel, What Matters Now


We are feeling a little insecure these days.

I think this insecurity is somewhat warranted.

No matter what business you are in, there is a (possibly unknown) competitor planning right now to take your customers away from you.  Someone, somewhere, is finding ways to do what you do cheaper, faster, more efficiently.  And that someone is figuring out ways to do so with a more simple and captivating design, or more simple and easy to use (i.e. better designed) processes.

The pace is breathtaking. Hamel again:  “are we changing as fast as the world around us?”

If you have a good idea, a good product, a good process, your job today is to ask “how do we make it even better?”  Be asking it now; keep asking it every day, every week.  In every meeting.

(And, have those meetings!  You only accomplish what you meet about).

Because someone is asking that question right now.  It’s much smarter for that someone to be you.

Seven Lessons from the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  At our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis event, we aim to finish our synopses in 15 minutes.  I missed it this time – going almost 20 minutes.  It was not easy to present this terrific book in such a short time.

I loved the book!

The book is a thorough, flowing narrative of the life and business career of Steve Jobs.  It reveals so much about the culture he grew up in, with a great look at the struggles –the very personal struggles – of a man who never knew his biological father, and only later came to know other members of his “birth family.”  (He loved his adoptive parents!).

Thus, one of Isaacson’s key observations is this:  Steve Jobs always felt
Abandoned. Chosen. Special.”

I want to encourage you to read the book.  And, whether you read it or not, I encourage you to order my synopsis of the book.  (It will be available soon, with handout + audio, on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com).  I prepared a comprehensive 10+ page handout that has many of my favorite quotes from the book.  But, trust me, you need to read the book – slowly! — to get the full story.

I learned plenty about the genius of Steve Jobs.  He cared deeply about ease of use, simplicity of design, producing good, usable products for the  “regular person” (the “non-techie”).  After I finished reading the book, I tried to come up with the “lessons” – the “business lessons” — to take away from the book.  Here’s my list of seven (it could have been much longer):

1)  Care about the product, not about the money.  The money must – must! — be the by-product, not the focus.
2)  Everything matters.  Everything.  Including what no one can see.  Insanely great cuts no corners!
3)  Do few things.  Do them really well.
4)  Absolute control.  Because such control created consistent quality.  (No “crap”!)
5)  Don’t ship junk!
6) The customer does not know what he/she wants “until we’ve shown them”…
7)  Build a team of A Players – Keep them A PlayersNon-A Players create more non-A players.  (They drag people down…)  A Players are genuinely, truly critical.

Now, putting these lessons into practice will take some work.  If you’re like me, you have some serious work to do…