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Leadership

is about creating clarity



The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution,
which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.
Albert Einstein


Background

A team exists when people come together for a common purpose. For people to
make a commitment and justify the hard work they need to have an important
purpose they need to understand why. Part of the role of a leader, in providing
leadership to the team, is to create clarity of purpose and clarity of organization
(roles/responsibilities and plan/actions). The team objective is to successfully
fulfill the purpose.

Clarity is important because it results in speed. When all decisions are aligned then
the team moves faster because all energy is being applied in the same direction.
Lack of clarity creates confusion leading to chaos and conflict. Speed is important
because usually our teams are in competition with other teams competitors.

Traditionally this clarity of organizational purpose has been provided by the
concepts of the vision statement and the mission statement.

Vision Statement = an aspirational statement, your dream, about the longterm future state that we would like to achieve.

Mission Statement = a statement explaining the reason for the existence of
the organization, core purpose and identity. It can encapsulate how you
intend to satisfy your customers

The mission can be seen as the cause while the vision can be the effect. The
vision and mission provide the basis for the strategic plan.



Potential Problem

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to know what the team needs to
accomplish to have a vision. The vision then needs to be communicated with the
team and the team needs to buy-in and commit to the shared vision. The vision
gives meaning, pride and motivation to people with narrow job roles in the
organization.

I have seen numerous vision and mission statements that are concise but do not
create clarity. Some are short, eloquent and inspirational sounding thoughts that
are quite often too big and too vague to be actionable. Many times the vision
statement is what should be in the mission statement and vice versa. Sometimes a
company will have only a mission statement and no vision statement.

Often, the vision and mission statements end up on display, like fine porcelain
teacups we look at but do not use, protected behind glass. Eloquent but vague
(useless) statements can persist for decades. We, the people on the front lines, need
a coffee mug that we can use every day. We lose faith in leaders that cant provide a
compelling purpose.


Proposed Solution

Human beings are problem-solvers. People join one another to solve mutual
problems. Knowing how you help people, how you improve their lives, is a powerful
motivator. Vision and mission statements are nice but they dont directly define the
problem we want to solve. Customers also think in terms of problems and
solutions. We buy solutions to solve problems (needs) or to satisfy wants.

I propose a new way of creating clarity of purpose through the use of Problem and
Solution statements, which are more tangible and usable. Our purpose for existence
and action can be summarized as:

Our Purpose = (We Solve X by Creating Y) Guided by Z

Problem (X) = The issue that is causing discomfort. This is the reason for
our existence the reason why we joined together. Why we are doing
something. Related to what we know as a mission.
Solution (Y) = The value we provide/create. Our alleviation of the
discomfort. What we are doing. Related to vision it is how we propose to
make the world better.
Values (Z) = Constraints that define what we do not do. The limits of
what we are willing to do to alleviate the discomfort. How we are doing
it. These constraints include our organizational values.


Problem and Solution statements might be more easily translated into not only a
strategic plan and a brand management plan as well. Companies differentiate
themselves on the basis of the solutions they provide. Brands are based on the
promises we make about the solutions provided to solve consumer problems.

Why focus on the problem? Properly defining the problem is the foundation for any
good solution. Some thoughts:

Measure twice, cut once.
- English proverb

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.
- Charles Kettering

Determine the thing that can and shall be done, and then we shall find the
way.
- Abraham Lincoln

It's so much easier to suggest solutions when you don't know too much about
the problem.
Malcolm Forbes

Open-mindedness is a precondition for generating new ideas, but focusing on
the problem is almost equally important.
Eraldo Banovac




A word of caution

A Vision/Mission concept might lead to thinking that is too divergent. Divergent
thinking is good for creativity but it lacks focus required for action. A
Problem/Solution concept provides focus but might limit creative thinking. We
need focus and we need creativity. Great leadership finds a productive equilibrium.

Good leaders make problems interesting and the solutions so appealing that people
will want to join and be a part of the process to creating a better reality. Framing
the purpose clearly and getting buy-in is good leadership.

The Problem/Solution concept I propose might not be as elegant and sophisticated
as the Vision/Mission concept - but it might be more useful.



Final thought

Ponder this; which has higher potential for providing clarity?

A. A vague ideal future state towards which you aspire to
B. A well defined present state you want to move away from


Maybe the Vision and Mission statements could be merged with the Problem and
Solution statements.

Your purpose flows into your strategic plan, which flows into the requirements of
the people on the team. Your story needs to be based on a clear, precise and
simple understanding of your reason for existence if the team is to understand their
individual responsibilities.


I suppose it is tempting,
if the only tool you have is a hammer,
to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Abraham Maslow