Many moons ago I wrote about a borrowed thought from another coaching friend. It was his quote:
The problem is not the problem.
Last week we had the ice storm from Hell; yes hell did freeze over here in Texas. For several days, vast areas were without power and water. Communities suffered from bone-chilling temperatures with little to no opportunity to thaw.
Temperatures dipped into single digits in many zip codes.
I realize some of you who read this will laugh. You routinely experience cold weather, ice, and snow every year. You have 4 distinct seasons where you live. But you have to understand, we here in Texas usually have just two seasons – mild and HOT.
Where I live, we lock down when the needle drops below 40 degrees. At 30, we board up the windows. At 20 we begin calling the priests for last rights. Ok just kidding, but it gets serious real fast the further the temperatures drop. Suffice it to say, we don’t know exactly what to do.
The mainstream media is having a field day. One side is blasting the other for everything from bad designs and plans to poor leadership. In rebuttal, people are blaming the infrastructure for the fails.
Regardless it’s a big problem. But just what problem is it? That’s my point.
Right now, we don’t know nor will we know exactly what the problem is. On the surface, people lost power and water. THAT’S a problem, sure.
But is that really THE problem? I don’t think so. It’s just the manifestation of something else that happened. Yes, when a family loses power and water in their house for more than 50 hours, they have a problem. I’m not minimizing that.
As the after-action reporting and various investigations unfold, no doubt we will hear about this state agency or that one doing this and that wrong. People will get their names thrown around with severe connotations. As an old friend once said, “sternly worded memos will follow.”
But will we discover the real core of the problem? I hope so. But honestly, I doubt we will.
The Extreme Case
My story so far is an extreme case. But in business, problems arise every day. Things don’t go as planned. We try to dig into causes to determine why the problem is there, but often we miss the mark.
If we get too consumed on the solution, we might miss the root cause.
Once we err on finding the real problem, we are likely to repeat the situation.
The same can be said of the very thing that your business may be about. When you started your business, you had a vision. There was some product or service you wanted to deliver. Likely you firmly believed your ‘thing’ was going to solve everyone’s problems. Right?
As your business grew, did you focus more on your solution rather than the problem you were trying to fix?
If you lose sight of the original problem, you have a bigger problem. Your company may be headed for becoming irrelevant. If the market doesn’t have your kind of problem to fix, then your solution is meaningless.
You cannot survive by being the solution looking for a problem. You have to be solidly aligned with the problem you think you can fix. And the real problem must be very real.
The whole dot com bust was about solutions people created for problems that didn’t exist. I once saw an episode of Shark Tank where a young entrepreneur had created a phone app that showed you where things were in airport food courts.
If you’ve been to a food court lately at your local airport, things are pretty much right there. Having an extra app to map the booths and kiosks wouldn’t add much to the expereince.
This young man was crushed to find none of the sharks were interested. In fact, they got a little rude as he stressed the value (in his mind) of this app.
His app was a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.
If your business is not producing the results you thought it should, maybe you are solving the wrong problems. Your creation may be wonderful, but if it doesn’t deliver the right value to solving a real problem, you are just fluff.
Fluff only sells for bedding and jackets, which we could have used more of here in Texas last week.