My brother-in-law Dan is one of my favorite people. He is a chemical engineer and a scientist, and he faces some mind-boggling technical challenges in his work. We once had a conversation about “Problems” and he defined the word in a way that completely changed the way I look at them.

In Dan’s world, it’s only a PROBLEM if:
Things aren’t as expected.
We don’t know exactly why.
Fixing it is necessary.

If any of these elements aren’t present, it’s not a Problem, it’s a Decision.

As we troubleshoot or assess an organization, one of our first tasks is to understand how to convert Problems into Decisions. Most often, that is accomplished by uncovering “exactly why” things aren’t as expected. Once you know that, the decisions become much clearer and you can begin the process of improvement.

So: do you have problems or decisions in your organization?