I have become apprehensive about the use of the term ‘solutions driven’. I am a big culprit however. I have used it many times in my client work, particularly in my behavioural change work. I am more cautious now. In its defence, it means to have an ethos of finding a way to solve issues, to get resolution, even to be creative, imaginative, innovative, and, above all, focus on some sort of delivery. Hard to argue against this. A great deal of my client engagement has taken place in a sales environment of some sort. ‘Solutions driven’ is always part of the furniture here, and for very good reasons.
However, in the down side, when ‘Solutions driven’ becomes a culture of solutionism, it means that you focus systematically on problems. If I am a solution provider, I will be looking for problems. When your entire air time is filled with problems, you create a culture of problems, even if your aim is to provide solutions.
There is a significant difference between a ‘culture builder’ and a ‘solution provider’. The building mode builds, the solution mode fixes things. For my clients, I want to have the fixing mode as a baseline, but I want to focus on building: a culture, a dream, a future, a purpose, a space in the world, a magnet for people, a brand, a portfolio of products and services. The Solution Hat is not good for a Building Aim. The hat you wear dictates what you do. A bunch of builders behave differently form a bunch of problem solvers.
If your culture is largely defined by solutionism, you won’t build well. Many management practices, systems, fashions, approaches, are based on solutionism: zero defects, zero tolerance, continuous improvement, variations of lean and six sigma, etc. In fact, it is hard to find an approach that does not have a dose of solutionism. Many would argue that, by fixing problems (of efficiency, of efficacy, of quality, or processes and systems) you are shaping a culture. I agree. A culture of fixing problems.
It’s hard to argue against the existence of problems and the need to tackle them, not to ignore them. If this is what you are thinking when reading this, I am not getting the point across. My contention is with the incredibly easy infection of an entire culture that is focused on problem solving, and forgets to build. Most building can be done not by fixing a problem but by providing a better, innovative way that makes the original problem irrelevant.
When 30 people make a decision in 30 days, the problem solver looks for a more efficient way for these 30 people to work together, for a better decision making process for 30 people, for a faster sharing of information. The builder decides to have 3 people making the same decision in 3 days. Sure, this is also a ‘solution’. But all solutions are not equal. As ever, there is a choice.