Wherever one looks, problems confront us. We face serious problems as individuals, in our local communities, our nation & worldwide. While lawyers are often accused of creating problems, the best lawyers know that that real success for their clients means solving their problems. This is true in my work as an attorney and systems change consultant. Clients come to me with problems. My job is to solve their problems.
Of course, saying this is easier said than done, and part of my job is to help clients set realistic expectations as some problems are beyond my ability to solve. Frequently, clients approach me with so much anger and frustration that they are unable to focus on actual problem solving. That means that my initial work is to help them keep their eyes on the prize by helping them strip their anger away to see how solving their problem will provide a much better long term solution than simply providing fuel to their anger.
Current events in Ferguson, with ripple effects nationwide, reveal genuine anger. Anger at police; anger at rioters; anger at institutionalized racism and all that comes with it: poverty, inadequate education and health care, excessive incarceration and the list goes on. But, where our leaders have failed the people of Ferguson and all the rest of us who struggle to overcome these longstanding problems, is that while they cite statistics justifying anger, or try to calm legitimate anger through calming words, our leaders are failing to engage in systemic problem solving.
Problem solving certainly requires clear identification of the problem. But that is merely a first step as problem identification alone will never solve the problem. In fact, identifying a problem without solving it is more likely to fuel anger than solve the problem.
Once the problem is identified, the next steps which must be taken to solve the problem include:
- Finding workable solutions, ideally a solution that has demonstrated efficacy, as Kalamazoo has done for our public schools.
- Set realistic goals for solving the problem, track progress, and hold those responsible for reaching those goals accountable for the success or failure.
- Provide inspiration to those struggling to solve the problem, as it can be a long, hard, frustrating endeavor that without inspiration, will only fuel frustration and despair.
- Sustain hope for those seeking solutions, as without it, many will fail to engage in the struggle to solve big problems.
Struggling to overcome problems, large and small, is part of the human condition. The question is whether we stay mired in complaining about our problems or engage in genuine problem solving. I have devoted my career and much of my private life to problem solving. If more of us do the same, we will succeed in solving more problems, sooner rather than later.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you solve problems through effective, progressive systems change contact him through his his Systems Change Consulting web site.