Problems and Predicaments

A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation given by Kenny Moore, an author and internal OD consultant at Keyspan, an energy utility in New York. In a talk about leadership, change, and the role of the internal organization development practitioner, one of his points had to do with problems vs predicaments.

Problems have fixes. Problems have solutions. Predicaments, in contrast, have no clear cut answer; rather there are various possible answers, all with upsides and downsides.

Organizations have both, problems and predicaments. So they need:

- people who are good problem solvers. Typically these are technicians, people on the front-line.

- people who are comfortable in the ambiguous world of predicaments. These are leaders. They can operate on any level inside an organization.

After hearing Kenny Moore's talk, I subsequently heard another talk where the speaker, Billie Alban, recommended a book called Polarity Management by Barry Johnson, which deals with how to manage unsolvable problems, i.e., the predicaments.

I just started reading the book on the train this morning. It's good.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, May 16, 2007

Comments

Eric Grider said…
I like that, Terrence. There certainly are things that don't have clear-cut solutions, so to separate them out of the category of "problems" is probably wise. Thanks for the link!
Terrence Seamon said…
It seems to me, Eric, that it may be time for another acronym, like BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), that would apply to these big and unsolvable dilemmas...BUDs?

Cheers!

Terry

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