How to Solve Difficult Problems in any Country and in any Culture

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During a recent coaching session with a client in Africa, we discussed problem-solving for a not for profit. This particular entity seeks to place local workers in jobs and their placement rate had dropped from 75% to 50% over the past 2 years. Given the complexity of the market, culture and the fact this was a non-governmental organization (NGO) one might believe the typical problem-solving techniques would not apply. This turned out to be 100%, not the case.


As I and the operations leader worked through a carefully articulated problem statement, the next step in creating a conceptual approach was straightforward. As in many other consulting engagements, I simply asked her if she had well-performing teams and those that were not performing. And, of course, this will always be the case. We then conducted a simple segmentation exercise by city to uncover those teams that were performing. While most people continuously analyze those teams that are not performing, I ask clients to analyze the teams that are performing and understand why and what will translate. Little can be learned from analyzing poor performing teams.


We followed this with some simple change techniques to use: creating a shared need, forming a team and aligning systems and structures to support the team, and after an hour we had formulated a plan that would help move this organization forward.


The lesson learned is simple. Regardless of country or culture, proven problem-solving techniques and tools are universal. Clearly define the problem, create a simple conceptual approach and understand the standards you are seeking. This will work anywhere and anytime.

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