Print this Post

How Senior Leaders can quickly identify Organisational Challenges

Quickly Identifying Organisational Challenges image by Matthew BroomheadThe initial idea for this was from Alan Weiss. For most leaders and the majority of challenges in organisations, whether private, public or not-for-profit, this simple concept will be surprisingly helpful.

As a busy leader in an organisation such as a CEO, Managing Director or Head of Projects, then the people you lead will daily encounter challenges.

Why someone or something is not working as expected can cause major headaches for those that have to resolve the issue and achieve the end result.

Within my consulting I have found my 3S’ problem solving very useful in identifying the exact cause. Challenges fall into one of three categories:


Is the computer or paper system that people use causing the problem? Is it unreliable, or slower than expected or perhaps laborious to complete straightforward tasks? Legacy systems can cause no end of complications. What is valuable is to swiftly identify where the problem is. Sometimes it is not a quick fix due to budget restraints. For example, legacy systems using old software can be expensive to reprogramme and the cost of “fixing the problem” could far outweigh the extra time needed for someone to input and use the system. Another critical question to ask is “do other people using the system have the same problem?” If not, then it will be one of the other 3S’.


Once we have identified that it is not a system problem then the next step is to check whether the person responsible for completing the task has the relevant skills. There are all sorts of reasons why someone may not have the appropriate skills. Perhaps they were brought in by an incompetent recruiter or they have had been forced into a promotion where they have been promoted “to the level of their incompetence”. Whatever the reason, quickly understanding that the reason something isn’t been done is down to the persons lack of skills helps identify what resources need to be implemented. As I have written elsewhere in another post there are two types of skills commonly known as hard and soft skills. There are various possibilities to solving this through on the job training, “classroom training”, coaching, mentoring from someone more experienced, e-learning methods, reading, or skill sessions.


The third reason for the problem I have named “Self-efficacy” (so that we have 3S’). Psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. One’s sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks, and challenges.

Therefore if the systems within the organisation work fine and the person has the skills to complete the task and there is still a problem, then the third area necessitates exploration. A person creating the problem may not want to complete the task for a variety of reasons, e.g. lack of motivation; values conflict or even wanting to create disruption.

Even though normally this should be the cheapest area to resolve, unfortunately it can be the most difficult.

Implementing 3S’ problem solving throughout your team

To create duplication within your organisation then one simple way is to get the three words printed onto a business sized cards and carry them around with you.

Now before you correctly think “hang on a minute Matthew! I run a successful organisation and I am very good at what I do. Are you suggesting I can’t remember three simple words?”

Of course you can, but as a leader you understand that for your organisation to take on something new, you can’t tell them about it. YOU have to SHOW them by using it yourself. It helps people take the problem out of their heads as it is an external device that people can hold and perhaps jot down ideas on.

Three is a clever little number and has been used throughout human civilisation for influencing the masses. It also helps categorise the challenge quickly and simply.

It won’t work every time, but can definitely help people to reframe the “overwhelming” challenge they have. Instead of “it’s impossible/it can’t be done/we’ve never done that before/things aren’t done like that around here”, it more easily progresses towards creating new possibilities.

Matthew Broomhead
“Raising the level of Business Skills in Britain”
Creator of Broomhead Business Channel

Permanent link to this article: http://www.matthewbroomhead.co.uk/how-senior-leaders-can-quickly-identify-organisational-challenges/