How many workplace issues are introduced to you as, "We've got a communication problem?"
Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's generic, socially
acceptable, and really just sends the signal that someone wants to
start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about
Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory
pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're a call for help when
someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real
Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.
In organizations, communication is the #1 presenting problem.
The next time someone lays a communication issue on you, follow through with:
"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."
You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow
guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a
You don't yet know the cause. But you do know the real situation and where to focus your energy.
How many presenting problems can you uncover today?
If you've got a favorite
"presenting problem" story, toss it into the mix with a comment below.
You may help someone else see how to probe and work on the right thing
at the right time.