Let us first understand the difference between the terms issue, problem and mess in detail. Though they all seem synonymous, there is a significant difference between them. They vary with the degree of intensity. It is essential to understand this difference clearly, so that we may address it accordingly. An issue in general is an isolated occurrence; though it is sure to cause some discomfort, it may have a solution, an alternative readily available. The impact is usually restricted to the person in question. This should be considered as a budding stage. Issues neglected continuously transforms into a problem sooner or later.
Problems on the other hand are more complex in nature and can be perceived as a situation a person that needs to be corrected in order to arrive at a desired outcome. In this phase the impact is felt on some or a greater part of the group. It may take a while to surface and does not get resolved automatically. Solution can only be arrived at with a forethought and discussion with the impacted group.
Multiple problems left unattended over a period of time result in a mess. This stage is very complex in nature and may seem to have little or no hope for a resolution in sight. At this level, any wrong step taken by any individual of the group only complicates and deteriorates the situation even further. Though it may seem perfectly normal on the surface, be assured that underneath is an active volcano roaring to erupt. All it needs now is a slight tap to the breaking point.
Now that we understand the perfect recipe for a mess, it seems only normal to act on the isolated issue - at the budding stage. But surprisingly, we tend to ignore it at this level. Also, shockingly we tend to live with the next phase too, till it comes to a grinding halt. Few reasons that this occurs may be:
· We may be too lazy to address the issue at the budding stage.
· We do not believe it may develop into a serious issue and have major effects.
· Unclear communication (one that doesn't stress the seriousness enough) also is a major contributor.
· Small tiffs between individuals/groups ignored at the nascent stage.
· Fail to prioritize this issue as we may feel that there is far more important stuff.
· Bias towards a particular individual/group is a very frequent and a strong reason too.
· Hostility due to personal grudge between two individuals/groups is the strongest and the most deadly one.
Whatever the case, issues and problems neglected are sure to come back more complicated than ever. In messier situations the person or the group may completely shut the communication channel with you (they may be listening to you but are not willing to understand or participate in the resolution process).
Please understand for a great leader like you there is nothing more important than addressing the issue at its first stage “always”. This way you set precedence. Same goes with your manager too. If you notice anything not in accordance to the regular flow and is troubling you, it is recommended that you have a discussion immediately to seek clarification and resolve at the first instance. Do not wait for it to develop into a nasty surprise and surface when you are least prepared. Please refer my previous post: “The art of identifying the problem cycle in its budding stage...” for an in depth understanding of how to identify and resolve a problem at its budding stage.