Transforming organizational breakdowns into breakthrough performance is akin to alchemy–turning base metal into gold. And developing your capacity to do this reliably is also worth its weight in gold.

This series of blogs highlights four aspects of a transformational approach to problems and organizational breakdowns:

  • What a problem is and generating a new perspective.
  • There is a difference between a problem and a breakdown (and why that matters).
  • A new perspective on what a breakdown is.
  • Generating breakthrough performance from a breakdown.

What you name the challenge and what you say about it matters. Why?

  •  Any conversation about an obstacle– including what it is called and how people speak about it–has enormous impact on your power to deal with it.
  • Noticing and attending to how you and others speak about the situation gives you access to dealing with the problem more effectively, and ultimately to breakthrough performance.

Problems, problems
(What are they and what we do and say that makes them even harder to handle)

If you are a CEO, senior executive, manager or leader, you have problems. But is having problems, a problem?

Everyone has heard that how you relate to problems makes all the difference and can lead to breakthrough performance. But what does that really mean?

First, what makes a problem a problem?
The dictionary defines problem as: a question or situation that presents uncertainty, perplexity, or difficulty.

But is such a situation inherently a problem? You could well imagine a situation that fits this definition, yet is not really a problem.

For example, you might be having “difficulty” and “uncertainty” around implementing a new system at work, yet be ok with it. You are actually enjoying the challenge and using it to bring the team closer together.

That is, unless it seems that something, or someone, is wrong. “They” should not be making this change now. Or “it” is not the right system, etc.

Often at the heart of handling organizational problems is a perspective that “something” or “someone” is wrong.
This view makes handling the situation effectively more difficult. If you and/or the team overtly (or covertly) resist what is happening, and spin your wheels in conversation, over- analyzing, gossiping or pointing fingers, things bog down.

What would be possible if the response to sticky problems was to see them as purely a situation to be addressed, by dealing with the facts?

Think of a specific organizational problem you have right now.

  • What are you saying about it? What do others say?
  • How are you and others relating to it?

At work there are situations to be handled. There are, indeed, problems.

Handling challenges as simply something happening, without the added background of who and what is wrong, can transmute your relationship with organizational problems and pave the way to breakthrough performance.

What then do we mean by a breakdown? We have begun by warming up the “base metal” of problems for our transformational alchemy.  Stay tuned–it gets hotter


Coming Next: Part Two: What a breakdown is and how it differs from a problem.

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