The problem with problems


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In our last post we noted the distinction between puzzles and problems; whether you perceive customer-centricity as a puzzle or a problem actually impacts the approach you take. Some, like Adrian Swinscoe of RARE business, a consultancy focused on customer experience, noted that the diversity of companies and customers requires we first frame the challenge as a problem. Puzzle thinking then comes into play if you see there is one correct answer that applies to a sequence of rules or actions. So start framing the your customer-centricity change initiative as a problem.

But there is also a problem with problems…

Problems aren’t so simple that you can just throw a few potential factors on the whiteboard, move them around and, presto, you have your problem. At least not if you want to really address meaningful change.

There is an important distinction between problems that are really technical challenges and those that inherently adaptive challenges.

Technical challenges are problems that have a known and predictable outcome. And if you can specify that, then you can begin to apply an engineering mentality: what resources, time, expense and manpower will you allocate to address the problem? Still not quite a puzzle, but one where you can make choices about how to secure the future you desire. Once this is done, you can proceed as if each element was a puzzle. If you are employing a six sigma, DMAIC type approach to fostering customer centricity, then you fundamentally see this change as a technical challenge.

Adaptive challenges are problems that require a change in the hearts and minds of those involved for anything of real substance to happen. Those impacted by the intended change will have to give up the security of past behaviors and, for a time, won’t know for certain if the new behaviors will truly solve the challenge at hand. The first efforts will most likely need tweaking and rethinking how, what and why. All of this creates uncertainty, anxiety and for some people a powerful desire to get to anything that looks like a secure normal state, even if that means abandoning the opportunity for change to go back to former ways of acting.

That’s why people will nod their heads when you present a vision of customer-centricity and then they do nothing.

That’s why they agree with you and still tell you they are just too busy to do anything different than what they have done in the past.

Fortunately there are a number of actions leaders can take to drive change when the challenge is really an adaptive one.

And you can read them in our next post…

Where have you seen the move to customer-centricity requiring a substantive change in the hearts of minds of employees?

Why do you think some employees or managers resist the call to become a more customer-centric company?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


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