I have consulted for a family run business. They were experiencing a crisis within the management team. Had this been a traditional company, the solution was rather evident: one person was disrupting the operations and needed to go. But that person being a close family member that you love, what do you do when you’ve tried everything?

When you face this kind of dilemma, this is what I call facing a real-world problem. Having spent over 20 years solving these kinds of situations, I have in time developed a framework that has helped me find clarity by providing a methodology to tackle them.


As a leader, are you facing situations where clarity and effective solutions are elusive? Here are a few that might resonate with you:

1. Performance and operational issues

You are struggling with significant inefficiencies, such as waste, lost revenue, or declining product quality and safety, and are unsure of how to address them.

2. Employee well-being and safety

You have increasing workplace accidents, health concerns, or rising employee anxiety created a challenging work environment, and you’re uncertain about the best approach to improve worker well-being.

3. Leadership and management challenges

You face difficulties in aligning management actions with corporate values and maintaining trust and effective communication with employees and lack clarity on how to resolve these issues.

4. Crisis and complex problem management

When dealing with crises or complex, unprecedented challenges, you find it hard to identify clear solutions or strategies to navigate these situations effectively.

5. Organizational disruption and change

You encounter disruptive issues and change that require balancing conflicting priorities, like innovation versus stability.  You feel uncertain about how to manage these polarities to prevent wasted resources and disruption.

What are real world problems to me?

They are issues and risks that are causing losses or likely to cause them in a near future. Examples in the workplace I have addressed pertain mostly to the following areas:

  • Performance (waste, lost time and revenue, product quality, product safety, industrial risks, economic risks, etc.)
  • Human well-being (accidents, disease, discrimination, unemployment, mental health, etc.).

Real world problems are relevant to the people within an organisation or society at large. For example, a factory shutting down will impact the lives of the personnel, their families, and the community.

These problems usually don’t have an obvious solution and very often I am called for a small well-defined problem for which the potential losses or risks to the organisation and its environment are unseen.

The framework I have developed is used to analyse situations and to identify the best approach and methodologies for the challenge at hand:

  • A problem to solve?
  • A polarity to manage?
  • A life situation to manage?

Your situation could be a combination of any of these and require nested approaches using adapted tools and methodologies.

If it’s a problem, is the solution known, unknown, or unknowable?

If the solution is known (bringing performance up to a given standard, solving quality issues, product safety meeting requirements, etc.) or unknown (there are many fuzzy problems and potentially multiple possible solutions) we will use different problem-solving techniques, choosing the ones most fit to context.

If the solution is unknowable or it is difficult to assess the situation -crisis for example-, we will use complexity management tools and frameworks.

If it’s a polarity, how can we get the best of both worlds?

We will investigate seeing the polarities that are impacting your business and leverage them to ensure the best possible outcome.

If you’re already wondering what a polarity is, let’s talk about it! They are often the cause of major organisational disruption and wasted resources.

If it’s a life situation, how can we deal with the current emotions and behaviours?

We will investigate what can be done to change the system so that the worldviews and behaviours shift towards supporting the desired ambitions.

As humans we all behave irrationally and trying to solve emotional responses through rational tools is a common approach that I have never seen work. I much prefer using a systemic approach to transformation, coupled with what I call symbolic management. But that’s another story we can talk about!

A simple framework with huge leverage

As you can see, this is a simple framework that connects tools from many different fields from engineering to human systems. Therein lies its power.

And since solving real-life problems is all about solving significant problems for those that are impacted by them, I will teach you as we go along the tools you need so you and your teams can thrive again.