"You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem."
I'm running into this phrase lately in the business context (which I will mention that it's used out of its original context - from the Googling that I did, I found that it was originally spoken by Eldridge Cleaver, an American writer and political activist: "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem"). At first I was like "wow yeah totally" but it is starting to bother me. I realized that this is potentially a dangerous way of thinking because it oversimplifies things that shouldn’t be.
Here’s an example:
Meet Adrian. He likes to plan everything way in advance because he gets anxious when the deadline is even remotely close.
Meet Breanne. She thrives and performs better under pressure, so she prefers to start things when they’re closer to the deadline.
Meet the team. Most of the team members think like Adrian. Breanne is the oddball in the team.
Breanne is tasked with running a large company event, which involves doing a lot of arrangements with different venues and vendors. Breanne thinks that it’s ok to start planning 2 weeks before the event; that’s more than enough time. But the rest of the team doesn’t. They’re getting anxious because nothing has gotten off the ground a month before the event. So the team’s eyes naturally drift towards Adrian, who gives into the pressure and starts planning.
Here’s the question: is Adrian part of the solution or the problem?
Which solution? Which problem? It depends on what we’re talking about. Breanne’s thought that planning 2 weeks ahead may have been too short. Adrian may have increased the odds that the event will run well. But what should’ve been Breanne’s task is now on Adrian’s plate. Breanne is bored while Adrian is overwhelmed.
What do we prioritize? Short-term success of the event or the long-term health of the team? What risks are the team willing to take? Were the tasks not assigned correctly in the first place? What role would Breanne thrive best in?
I don’t have answers; only more questions. But I think these are questions that managers should be thinking about – not only whether someone is part of the solution or the problem. The world isn’t as binary as we may want to think it is.
I'm Candice and I doodle with the intensity of the doomguy.