Problem-solving and its effectiveness in business consulting

A Problem-solving model is an approach applied to businesses since they are organizational systems. Other consulting services might offer workshops or pieces of training –which are certainly useful – while this model offers new ideas to resolve current problems or those that one can see on the horizon. What solutions have been proposed that haven’t worked? What protocols are set to be implemented, endangering the existence of the small and medium-sized business? The role of the problem-solver consultant is to contribute new ideas to each company in particular. Therefore, it will always be an ‘out of the box’, new vision to offer. 

Our flexibility and ability to adapt to each particular case is what 21st-century companies need because they are entangled in old strategies, stuck in solutions that only work for the moment and solve specific problems, but are not a long-term strategy. All businesses must be ready to regenerate all the time: of this we are sure. Levy and Schlanger put it this way: “The business… will be viable as long as it is capable of continuously reinventing itself a vis a vis a wide variety of possible contexts, which tend to be more innovative, intense, fast and complex.”

The Problem-solving Model of the M.R.I. (Brief Therapy Center), delivers tools to be applied in the business world to create strategic interventions in the systems and subsystems that constitute that organization. To that end, it delivers effective communication tools, system-strategic interventions, to enhance change in the work environment not only at the business units level but also to enhance work productivity at the current placement of the employee., These are some of the tools under the umbrella of the Problem-solving for businesses.

The work is focused on the individual making decisions with more tools than she/he currently have, according to her/his current situation so that each person is able to take actions that move them to their potential productivity level within the organizational system.


The concepts of circularity, feedback and context are crucial in each interaction. Person A responds to person B, and B, in turn, responds to A in a particular organizational context.  Lucy Gill’s book  “How to work with just anyone” (1999) provides a good frame: “WHO: her boss…is doing WHAT: not giving adequate guidance on projects… TO WHOM (is this a problem): Katherine… HOW is this behavior is a problem: Katherine is not sure how to proceed with her project and is worried about making sizable and highly visible mistakes.” 

We work with the client, for example, the company’s owner, who is the one that will tell us that Brian and Mathew have “problems in their relationship”. We will meet with Brian and Mathew (separately), to listen to what they have to say about the same problem, from their point of view. Their way of seeing things is different from that of their boss. With that optic, we will come back to the owner - who is the one that called us in– to suggest new strategies to deal with the relationship between Brian and Mathew to increase both their productivity. For example, is the owner giving contradictory messages to both of them and this creates a vicious circle/symmetrical scalation between them. Once the owner starts breaking this circle with clearer messages, it will generate a virtuous circle of change that contributes to a more positive work environment/context—for everyone. 

Furthermore, where other models/consulting services might suggest the message “You have to work on communication” or “you should do teamwork”, we will suggest less conventional ideas to get to the same goal. “Do not communicate this to this person” – if what they have been already been trying to communicate too much according to our estimation—or “do not work in teams here” – if the focus has been on the fact that everyone working together has had devastating results because that had been the ‘common sense’ instruction. We base our arguments on the reality that in each situation there are things which are not necessary to communicate, or when the attempted solution has been to communicate in many different ways but the person has not responded. What happens if once, this person is not informed, and her partners are? Does it engender the desired positive/productive change? (be aware that this is just an example and do not attempt to recreate it in a different context!)

On the other hand, let’s think of a situation in which there is no teamwork when there are possible decisions to be taken by the owner that really don’t need to be discussed with the team or the supervisor who makes a decision to not share because in fact, he has proof of workplace harassment towards one of his employees. With Brian and Mathew: how can we ask them to work in teams outright, if they cannot stand each other? It will require time, effort and change.

Entrepreneurs in the 21st century need more than standardized solutions or protocols, from a manual that tells us what leadership is, how to be leaders today, etc, when in the real world each leader is always a different leader. Yes, leaders, different leaders for each team, for each business. Who is doing what, to whom and how this behavior is a problem. This is the powerful tool of the Problem-solving from Palo Alto, California: observe today’s situation in a different way, in its simplest version to implement long-lasting and efficient changes. This is the difficult part: reducing complexity that negatively impacts the business in its unique genius. Each company is its best explanation. 

By Margarita Irazusta


Margarita Irazusta
LIC

Clinical Psychologist, doing Brief Therapy – Problem Solving for more than 7 years. She works with teenagers, adults, couples, children, parents, and families. She has been working under the supervision of Karin Schlanger, Director of the Brief Therapy Center in the MRI, Palo Alto – California. She visited the MRI (Mental Research Institute), in 2009, getting to know more about the model of Problem Solving...

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