One dimensional solutions to multiple change issues don’t work

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Mar 07

We live in a “singular solution” world when, in fact, we have multiple issues happening all at once and singular solutions don’t work.

For example, I went through some very good corporate training about how to manage change. It was an enlightening course on change — how people should prepare for change, the change event itself, and how to come to resolution about the change. Perhaps not unexpected, but the training strangely mirrored the grieving process as, perhaps, it should. It was serial in nature, one step at a time.

This makes perfect sense — for one change. If all you are dealing with is one change happening now in your life, it follows that we should follow one process for the change. But we’re not dealing with just one change, are we?

Instead, we deal with multiple issues with change every single day, both at work and at home. Such issues:

  • Two of the six projects we’re working on are now behind schedule and we need to modify everything.
  • Another team was formed today to address a new competitive issue — and it requires fast work with extra hours on the job.
  • In the five teams I’m working on in various initiatives, I can’t stand two of the people because they never deliver their work.
  • The project I completed 3-months ago won’t go away; operational issues are still happening and management won’t revisit the project.
  • My new manager doesn’t get the work I am doing and isn’t familiar with the industry and isn’t helping. Making my job harder.
  • My kid is going through a rough patch at school and the plan we put into place needs modifying because it isn’t working the way we thought.
  • My club is going off in a new direction that I like, but I can’t participate as much as I would like.
  • All of this at once, of course.

Sure, this is life. But none of these things are addressed through classic singular solutions. You can’t just say “go through X 4-step process” and the problem is now solved.

Instead, our life cries out for integrated solutions to multiple changes. Short of building an Excel scorecard — where X change is in stage Y of change and M change is in stage Z of change — to keep track of how we are doing, I don’t know how we evaluate the emotional state we are in for all of these stages of change across multiple issues.

The closest thing I’ve come to managing all of this stuff (“closest” does not mean “mastered”) is the Getting Things Done methodology where actions are assigned for all of this to maintain control while utilizing a weekly review of everything to provide some perspective.

But, I’m not convinced this is the end answer to managing multiple issues, especially addressing the emotional side of change.

How do you manage change, when change comes at you with ten changes a day?

  • Steve says:

    The work I do (and have done for 20 years now) is extreme in its multi-dimensional juggling.

    The whole key is best optimization of what by its multivariate definition is always a complex set of “workings out” and balancing.

    What has made this sort of dynamic “everything moving” set of tasks not only do-able, but fun, is to hold true to best optimization on several guiding principles.

    Organize and apply your meta-principles and it comes together.

    In my work the principles are fairly simple:



    Resource Balancing
    Risk Reduction

    Notice that we let profitability be a laagered variable, one that we plan into our construction by doing the basics as best we can.

    Wielding the “Sword of Meta-Principles” quickly slays the dragon of multivariate dynamic work environments.

    And of course we always back check our decision making with a “Golden Rule Analysis” to make sure if we were a customer or line worker that we would agree and buy into the optimization we’ve directed.



  • […] article on using one dimensional solutions to multiple change issues don’t work became, perhaps not surprisingly, my most referred to article in the blog. And all I did was […]

  • […] One dimensional solutions to multiple change issues don’t work. An article about the multiple changes we have in our lives going on at once can’t be worked by a one dimensional solution. Plus, a follow-up article on Multiple Changes Require Fast Focus that attempts to provide some insight around what it would take to deal with the multiple changes. […]

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