2Technical Problems and Adaptive Challenges

There Are Two Sides to a Problem

Ronald Heifetz, a researcher who studies leadership, proposed that problems in the world can be classified into technical problems and adaptive challenges.

A simple explanation of technical problems and adaptive challenges can be found in Figure 1‐3.

Technical problems include equipment and machine failure, mechanical troubles in production, needs for technique improvement, and lack of individual skill. For mechanical equipment and machine failures, finding the cause and applying standard solutions is enough to solve the problem. Skill‐related problems include being unable to use certain software and a lack of communication and presentation skills. These types of problems can be solved by acquiring the skill in question.

On the other hand, adaptive challenges are problems that require the people involved to adapt to the current situation. When dealing with these problems, there is a need to change one's thought patterns and behavior. Adaptation will be necessary for both external and internal (within the workplace) matters. For these challenges, you cannot just apply existing, standard solutions as they are. The people concerned will have to study the problem in terms of themselves (how they understand the problem and their assumptions), discuss what to do, and come up with a solution together while ...

Get Managing Change now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.