Having recently “profiled” 53 leaders for a client company and delivered several workshops on the MBTI instrument we revealed a pattern.  The pattern may be the cause of ineffective problem solving (problems that keep coming back).

When problems continuously reoccur it would seem that the root cause of the problem had not been accurately identified.  In other words, there was symptom solving and not problem solving.  Symptoms are the manifestations of other, usually larger, system problems.  Failure to adequately find and work on the root cause problem will result in the reoccurrence of the same problems. 

Some organizations find the act of symptom solving very satisfying as leaders spring into action, look for the culprit to blame, and slap countermeasures in place all in haste and to be able to report at the morning management meeting what swift and sure activity took place.  Some CEO’s only want results and don’t really want to hear about the process.  In those environments it is easy to confuse activity with results.  Accordingly, we will see a lot of activity, a lot of scurrying, and a lot of fire fighting but little fire proofing.

So what is it about an organization that routinely would rather fight fires and not search for root causes?  Perhaps it is part of the collective DNA.  Perhaps it is part of their collective personality profile!  Using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator we can identify preferred personality styles and their related behaviors.  For example and Extravert tends to talk his way to making his point while an Introvert will sit quietly formulating his thoughts before opening his mouth.  And another example, someone who prefers to gather data using his senses rather than his intuition will likely focus on the practical and not the theoretical.  And the MBTI offers lots of examples that demonstrate preferences and behaviors.

In particular, the two dichotomies of interest in using the MBTI as it relates to problem solving is the S-N and the T-F.  A simple problem solving process includes 5 steps.  The entire process requires the effective use of the two dichotomies S-N and T-F.  The simple model suggests that on any given problem step 1 should be data collection and data analysis.  The “S” part of the first dichotomy leans in the direction of data collection and data analysis.  The 2nd step of the simple model is to consider all of the possible causes for the problem.  And the 3rd step is to brainstorm possible solutions.  The “N” preference leans in favor of doing steps 2 & 3.  The 4th step involves selecting “the best” alternative plan of action.  The “T” preference leans forward for using rational thoughts and non-emotional decision making.  Finally the 5th step of the simple model is manage the change that the solution may cause.  Managing change usually involves the anticipated impact on the effect on the people impacted by the change.  The “F” preference leans toward the feelings of others in making decisions.

So then, in theory, a team that is well balanced and effective in using all four preferences of the two dichotomies would be more likely to become proficient at solving problems permanently.  This would be true because they have taken the time to collect and analyze the data, used theory and explored causes and alternatives, selected a countermeasure, and then effectively rolled out the changes to the workforce.

What if an organization was devoid of any of the 4 preferences?  What if their DNA reflected a bias for S and T and the absence of N and F?  What would problem solving look like in that organization?  Would it look like rapid identification of the problem and rapid identification of the solution without consideration to root causes and alternative actions?  Would the workforce and leaders look exhausted and perhaps a little apathetic from problems that are reoccurring time after time?

That’s exactly what we found.  What is the the solution?  Get trained and be disciplined in executing the problem solving process.  That’s what we will be doing to help our client.


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