multi layered problemsWhat is a multi layered problem?

I can hear some readers saying to themselves ‘but I have not got any multi layered problems’. Well have I got news for you (sorry for the plagiarism there). Most problems bar the very simplest are multi level. Asking ‘Why’ over and over again is considered to be an alternative or creative technique for investigating issues. Let us consider the following scenario from a medium sized business.

Initially there are reports that sales are not as good as forecast and so the spotlight falls on the sales force. There are cries to sack and replace salesmen but one thoughtful soul begins to ask why? The following scenario unfolds:

  • Our salesmen are rubbish. Why?
  • Sales are falling. Why?
  • Our product range is out of date. Why?
  • There is no commitment from the boss. Why?
  • The boss has no time. Why?
  • The boss has time management issues.

So you were ready to sack your sales force. But all you really needed to do is to send the boss on a time management course or perhaps get him a secretary to help with his workload.

Solving multi layered problems

Firstly, we have discovered that the initial problem and possible solution are quite a way apart. We have revealed a multi layer problem. Just like the zipper in the picture above or a deep wound, the multi layered problems we encounter must be solved a layer at a time and from the bottom up. Solving the boss’s time management issues will not suddenly make sales leap up but it will allow he/she to devote more time to new products. This will in turn lead to increased sales (if these issues are properly addressed).

And the moral of the story? Solving complex problems requires a little more effort and the problem you initially see is not necessarily the one that needs solving!

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