14 Tactics to Deal with a Complex Problem


Här kommer en liten blogg-bonus på engelska delvis sammanfattad från iPad-projektet. En väldigt ovetenskaplig sammanställning av olika taktiker för hur man kan lösa komplexa problem i organisationen.

/ Martin Claesson

A complex problem is not necessarily something bad. Some problems arise from the opportunity to make improvements, while others emerge from the need to address failing processes or bad results. I personally embrace complex problems because I think it makes my office hours worthwhile to see how different approaches and tactics can bring the organization forward. Being able to spot a problem is of course the key, something that requires vision, qualification and guts. It’s a skill not always preferable for your career, depending on your employer, so it could be wise to package every identified problem with some tactics on how to deal with it. Finding and fixing a problem could prove invaluable to your organization but without a solution you’re just the person who dug up the dirt. For great problem spotters/solvers sometimes the solution is already available in their tool box, they just need to find the right problem for it and apply some tactics.

So here’s 14 tactics to deal with a complex problem that you could choose from. My personal favourites are Ignore and Spend, but reality many times restricts me to Duct tape and the Do-it-yourself tactic (that I deliberately left out because it’s not really a tactic is it?), while Grow is probably the best long-term approach. Go ahead and try some or all of them, if they don’t work you’re probably doing it wrong.


Ignore – Some problems are just best left alone. Ask yourself is this is a situation that need fixing now or if there are more important things to focus on, then go do that. Whenever you come back to the issue the problem might already have been solved.

Duct tape – Make a temporary solution that will keep things running for now until you can apply other tactics. A cheap option that will work if you need to fix things instantly or your problem is limited to a certain time frame.

Invent – Get someone to solve the problem by creating a completely new solution. This could be a risky and costly approach and applies to unusual problems that resemble few others. Only do this to problems that affect your organization over a longer time period.

Piggy back – Go with someone else’s solution. It’s probably not necessary to buy a rocket if you just need a ride to the stars. This is a relatively cheap option that doesn’t give you full control over the solution but makes it happen.

Offspring – Spin off the problem to someone else who has to take ownership, maybe you’re the wrong person to deal with it if you just tweak it a little bit. There is also an option, though expensive, to create a new position to deal with a reoccurring problem.

Jam – Gather a good crew and sit down for a dedicated but limited period, preferably outside the office. Have everyone in the crew bring their ideas and perspectives on how to solve the problem. Don’t leave without at least a few threads to follow.

Lead – Appoint or create strong leadership to get everyone focused and on the same track when dealing with the problem. This is a power approach that could be useful if you identify that the key competencies to solve the problem are already in place.

Full court press – Have everyone in your organization or department address the problem for a short and limited time. This could be seen as a desperate tactic but deployed correctly it can also have positive side effects on  your organization by getting everyone involved in important processes.

Story – Some problems need to be looked at thoroughly to be understood. By investigating the past and envisioning the wanted state (future) it could be possible to fill in the gaps to find a feasible solution.

Mash – Try to solve the problem by combining already existing resources. Many solutions are already within your grasp if you are just able to see the opportunities and connect the right ends of resources and systems together.

Spend – Some problems go away by throwing money at them. It’s usually wise to know how and why you are doing it too.

Replicate – Your problem is probably not unique, someone else is likely to have already solved it (or died trying). Get the best parts of that person’s work (as long as it’s not patented) and leave the rest.

Invite – Look for someone to partner you in finding a solution. Maybe someone else could also gain from getting rid of the problem or through the process of dealing with it.

Grow – Make your organization aware of the problem and have it self-organize and grow around it to create a solution. This is a great tactic for organizations who are often dealing with complex problems but it requires you to have qualified and adaptable personnel at your disposal. And don’t expect things to happen overnight.