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Are We Solving The Wrong Problem?

One of the saddest truths in today’s workplace is when we misplace our efforts – we spend precious time solving the wrong problem. As an example, when you have customer complaining against your After-Sales Department, you are most likely to review the processes and manpower levels within the After-Sales Department, right? You want to streamline processes, make them more efficient and effective, you will look into the use of technology to enhance customer service.

Yet a common source of Customer Complain is that the Sales team, in an effort to meet Sales target, aggressively canvas customers, often promising them varying service level agreements. This makes the Customer happy, and they buy the product or service.

Fast forward a year later, the product or service needs After-Sales service. By this time, there has been a huge increase in customer load, and to compound the situation, each customer has differing levels of service agreement. This makes After-Sales department extremely inefficient and ineffective, and as a result, customers complain against the After-Sales department.

If we had spent our entire time looking into the After-Sales Department’s work processes, we would not have solved the problem. We first need to take a higher-level Systemic view, to realise that Sales and After-Sales are 2 phases of a customer’s experience, and that the former will set up expectation of performance for the latter. To resolve this, we really do need to address the Sales-After-Sales nexus.

Are We Solving The Wrong Problem?

In today’s resource-scarce world, spending time and effort on the wrong problem is a colossal waste of staff time and energy. Yet we find it occurs more commonly than we think. Why is this so? Well, it has to do with our propensity to jump straight into solutioning. The world loves a fire-fighting hero; we all want to be the one who created the silver bullet.

Problems cannot be solved with the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place,” so wrote Albert Einstein.

Our ignorance of Systems as work will result in complex problems, and as we continue to think in a linear, reductionist manner, we will never be able to grasp the complexity of the issues. It then forces us to work on the symptoms, and problem-solving will deteriorate into a whack-a-mole game.

We need to elevate our thinking.

Be Smarter Than Your Problem

by Tan Hong Wee


When should you use the Systems Thinking approach?

  • The problem is important.

  • The problem is chronic, and is not a one-time event.

  • The problem is familiar and has a known history.

  • The problem has been unsuccessful to solve before.

How is this approach helpful for problem-solving and decison-making?


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