Sell the problem

I was particularly pleased today to Photo by Szymon Kochanskiread one of Think Purpose’s 101 tactics for revolutionaries:

Learn to sell people the problem, not the solution

I like this not because it’s about effective selling, but because it’s about effective change.

Think Purpose writes about “systems thinking”, the idea of improving the system by seeing it as a unified whole rather than as component parts. Because typically improving the parts will slow down the whole. And therefore the thing that systems thinking is selling is change.

And this is also behaviour I encourage in Scrum masters who see their teams walking blindly into problems. They don’t want to tell the team what they’re doing wrong, because that would not help them be self-sufficient. I usually suggest they ask questions that lead the team to recognising the problem, then asking them how they would solve it.

Selling the problem helps people see the gap between today and how things could be, and therefore it encourages them to seek and therefore own the solution themselves. It’s a much more effective way to ensure that the change happens in the right way, and that it sticks.