Tag Archives: problem

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?