Problem Identifiers vs. Problem Solvers

Which do you want to be, a problem identifier or a problem solver?

I’ve been reading No Magic Bullet by Joe Willmore, and it’s a good book… if you want to be a problem identifier. But if you you’re looking for a book that will actually help you improve the performance of your organization, or the people in it – if you want to solve a problem – look elsewhere. With a subtitle like “7 Steps to Better Performance” I eagerly dug into this book looking to take away specific tools and techniques that I could use. I was disappointed.

The book does do a good job of describing what the author claims “most companies and managers” do wrong. In fact, he spends most of the first 170 pages or so being a problem identifier. And he repeats himself, then repeats himself, and then repeats himself again. Finally, in the last chapter he outlines the “7 steps.”

So, to avoid only being a problem identifier myself, here’s my suggestion: If you’re looking to learn something from this book, just read the last fifteen pages – the last chapter. If you’re the author and you have a chance to do it over again, just sell the last chapter as a white paper.

It’s ironic that this book – all about improving performance – does what some managers do. It points out the problem, but doesn’t focus enough on the solution.

There is one quote from the book that I love: Some companies focus on fixing the blame, rather than fixing the problem. Again, ironically, the book tends to do that.

The next time you’re faced with a problem, ask yourself if you’re focusing more on identifying it and looking for someone or something to blame than you are on solving it. As humans, we seem to find it easier to identify the problems than to fix them.

While I’ve beat up the No Magic Bullet book, there is always something to learn from every book. In addition to a few ideas introduced in the book, I must admit that it reinforced the importance of focusing on the solution to problems, even if it did so in a rather backwards approach.

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