Have you ever set out on a conquest to solve a huge problem your organization faces, certain that you have a solution nailed? You gain buy-in from your team and, with confidence in your analysis, the organization commits time and resources to solve the problem. Things go well — given that you have a good idea of the solution to your problem — and everyone is equally enthusiastic. After all, everyone enjoys solving problems! Implementation takes place and everything is on track to make this solution work.

After a month or so, everyone is asking for your thoughts on how things are going, along with your assessment of how long it will take to solve the problem. You remain confident in the solution you’ve implemented — all aspects of it are working perfectly — but the problem is not going away. As a matter of fact, more problems seem to emerge as your interaction with the multiple aspects of the issues unfold. There seems to be a lot more complexity than you originally thought, and soon your organization is spending time solving new problems that have emerged since you started and the original problem hasn’t been resolved.

Your boss calls a meeting and asks for an update. Management is concerned that there are a lot of resources being expended to solve unanticipated problems. He wants your assessment. You spend some time discussing the project, the successful implementation of the solutions you identified, and the many new problems that have emerged. When you get to the end of the update, your boss asks you, “Isn’t a lot of this above and beyond the original problem we set out to solve?”

Identifying the right problem is one of the hardest challenges any team faces. Whether it’s on the battlefield, on the gridiron, or in the boardroom, getting the problem correct from the start is crucial to ending up where you desire.

In many cases, folks launch a conquest to slay the proverbial dragon using one of the many successful dragon slaying techniques they’ve used in the past. After all, dragon slaying is what you do, and it’s exciting! But there will always be another dragon. And without understanding the environment where they are coming from – dragon slaying will quickly consume your army of resources. Wouldn’t it be better to understand the environment that is producing your problems first?

Oftentimes members of your organization have a pretty good grasp on the myriad of problems affecting your success. With 5 generations of leaders filling the ranks of the workforce, there shouldn’t be a single problem any team can’t solve if everyone is engaged. Which leads to another question: is your team fully engaged?

Do you take the time to ensure full understanding of the indicators that everyone should look for to anticipate shifts in your market? Do the leaders at the top of your organization have sufficient time to grasp the flood of data that shows trends relevant to your success or failure? Have you shared your experience at seeking those key indicators with your newest professionals so they know how to anticipate changes and their second and third order effects?

Before setting out to slay another dragon, take the time to engage the depth of your workforce. Taking the time to understand the environment, the problems your team faces, and determine the best solution collectively will prove more successful than it has in the past. In the current era of dynamic complexity and rapidly changing conditions, the days of jumping to a solution are over.

It takes an army to slay a dragon. Are you using yours?