The BLG Blog

Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

Problem Solving Cultures Create Reflexive Vs. Reflective Leadership

reflexOrganizations that have problem solving cultures customarily discuss work-related problems. Suggestions, recommendations, and comments are valued in an problem solving culture.

Problem solving cultures will aim to ask the following questions:

1. What happened during the task–how did it go?

2. Why did the things that went wrong, go wrong?

3. What went well?

4. What helped these successes?

5. What can be done differently next time? What can be learned for the future?

6. What should be done just the same, as it was such a success?

Of course, these questions can be asked in different ways, with different agendas, and with different purposes. The intent of the questions and how they are asked will depend on the organization.

Problem solving cultures can either be reflexive or reflective. A manager trying to sustain momentum by solving a problem reflexively will integrate new ideas in a fairly rudimentary way. If the ideas don’t fit he will abandon them for ideas that work. On the other hand, reflective managers ask how new ideas fit into ongoing agendas and initiatives. The process pushes reflective managers to not only evaluate new ideas according to how appropriate they are for the agenda, but forces them to evaluate the agenda in terms of new ideas.

A reflexive problem solving culture helps organization stay on track, sustain momentum, and make minor adjustments. Reflexive organizations are adaptable and adjustable because they make (or strive to make) tinkering changes constantly. They will implement new ideas, but still keep things moving. They’ll perfect old ideas and they’ll focus on specific problems. They risk spinning their wheels instead of effecting broad, sweeping change.

A reflective problem solving culture will allow you to make major adjustments, deal with large crises, and constantly change set-processes. Reflective organizations will be inclined to embrace overhauling changes and sponsor dramatic retoolings. The risk reflective organizations face is stagnation. They might have big ideas, but they could fail to get things done on a practical scale.

The gap between reflexive and reflective leadership is wide. Good leaders can mind the gap and bridge both operational styles. Asking questions and supporting a problem solving culture produces great ideas and insights. However, it takes proactive leadership to implement those good ideas so things get done and changes are made efficiently and effectively.

We’ll talk more about reflective and reflexive leadership on this blog this month. For more on this subject see my book on the subject, here.



About BLG

Whether you want BLG to deliver a complete leadership academy across your organization, focus on a key group, or supplement an ongoing program, the primary goal of any of our programs will be business impact.

Recent Posts


Sign up for our Newsletter