Management complacency is the toleration of a problem beyond its recognition.

Jim CastigliaJim CastigliaI first heard this in the early 1990s while working for an international management consulting firm. I thought this short and to-the-point maxim nailed it.

The job of management is to solve company problems. I say that without problems, managers don’t have a job. They should be thrilled they have problems and jump out of bed every morning eager, inspired, and looking forward to getting to work to solve problems.

The Attitude Toward Problems

What’s your shop’s attitude toward problems? Do employees avoid them, hide them, complain about them, resist them, or dread it when others bring them up?

Or does your team look forward to getting together and working on the problems that prevent company growth of the top and bottom lines?

I’ve never met a leader or manager who didn’t intimately know and understand their organization’s attitude and approach to problems and problem-solving.

So, step back and assess your company or department on this topic. How are you doing? Rate it on a scale of 1-to-5, with 5 being A+, Outstanding, Excellent, and 1 being “We need some work here big time!”

When Problems Are Not Recognized

Here’s what I’ve noticed in organizations where problems are not recognized and addressed head-on:

  • High levels of frustration and anger.
  • Employees feel defeated, discouraged, and disheartened.
  • People stop caring… about their jobs and about the company.
  • Wasted time, effort, and energy start occurring.
  • Motivation flies out the window.

You can likely come up with additional results that you’ve noticed as a direct result of problems not being addressed.

So, make it one of the most important initiatives in your company or department to solve problems. Here’s how to do it, and I’ll assume your ranking above is ‘3’ or lower.

  1. The fastest way to get started is to meet with your top team. In fact, schedule a “problem-solving meeting” every week at the same time/day. Let them know that this will be a problem-solving meeting and to come prepared by thinking about company problems that can be put on the table.
  2. Have a way for your team to write down problems and give them 2-4 minutes to do so. If they’ve already done that, ask them to think of anything they could add to their prepared list.
  3. Go around the room and have each person read their list out loud, one by one.
  4. As they read their list, have a “scribe” write each problem on a large whiteboard or a flip chart so all can see. The scribe should be chosen ahead of time. If the same problem is mentioned twice, just put a mark near the original listing; don’t write it again. And the scribe should have excellent handwriting. No “chicken scratch” allowed!
  5. At this point, you may have 10 or more problems, and you’ll need to create a priority list because you’re not going to solve that many problems in one session. Prioritize by asking the team to list their top three problems from the list. Give them 2-4 minutes to do so.
  6. Go around the room and have each person share their top three in order of most important first, second important choice, then third choice.
  7. The scribe marks each choice with hash marks. There are three marks for each #1 choice, two for #2, and one for #3.
  8. The problem with the most hash marks is your top priority problem.

Let the Team Determines Priorities

The benefit of this approach is that the team determines priorities, not the leader.

Once the listed problems are prioritized, now is the time to roll your sleeves up and get to work discussing the issue, determining root causes (don’t skip this step), and brainstorming alternative courses of action to solve the problem. Keep things moving; don’t get bogged down. 

There may be several courses of action to solve a particular problem. Pick one and decide who “owns” it and will take responsibility for moving things forward.

At this point, the energy and focus on recognizing problems and attacking them as a group is important. You’ll find that this is an inspiring strategy you can introduce into your company and master over the next few years.

This is one of the most powerful ways to optimize your company's value over the long term. Just remember…

Management complacency is toleration of a problem beyond its recognition!

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like some assistance. My direct email is and my cell is 949.338.7141

Jim Castiglia is the founder of Business Street Fighter Consulting and supports entrepreneurial business owners in their desire to grow and maximize the value of their business. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 919.263.1256. Visit