Will the real problem please stand up…

Do you ever get the feeling that something just doesn’t add up?

Perhaps you feel that people aren’t hearing what you have to say, or ‘the message’

isn’t getting through to your customers (and they’re not buying!), or maybe you have a design project that just keeps missing the mark (with endless rounds of corrections).

When we are asked to look at these kinds of challenges the first thing we do is look for ‘the real problem’. We know that when you have been working on the project for a while it can be bit difficult to see the forest for the trees. The real problem is often crouched behind the problem you are trying to solve.

Here are the two questions we use to help us get the real problem out in the open.

Does what you are trying to say connect to your business strategy?

Is what you are trying to say clear?

Lets look at an example.

We had a client who managed an industry sector board – she wanted to have a waiting list of people who would like to join the board  and that wasn’t happening. She bought us in to build a communication strategy to drive demand.

When we asked the first question (about connecting to the business strategy), it turned out that the board was in a real transition, it had been set up for one purpose, had achieved that goal and now was driven by the personality of the chair (rather than by a broader purpose). So the goal of recruiting more board members lacked strategic alignment with the boards immediate needs. Had we gone onto build a recruitment campaign we would have struggled with our second question – is what we are trying to say clear? In order to recruit new board members it must be easy to explain to them what the board does and why it is important.

In this example we worked with our client to position the board in the market place, then build a vision, mission and personality for the board. This new foundation was then used to build the business plan and to test all new projects against.

A year later they have a waiting list of people wanting to join the board.

The client also reports that meetings are more productive, decisions easier to make and board members are more engaged.

It gives us great pleasure to spot the real problem, solve it and then see the results.

We’d love to hear if using these two questions helps you to get the real problem on its feet.

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