Problem Solving Isn’t Always about the Problem Presented

I’ve had all this army, all these officers…

This damn Hooker, this damn idiot Meade.

All of them. The whole bloody, lousy mess

of sick-brained, potbellied scareheads.

They ain’t fit to lead a johnny detail.

They ain’t fit to pour pee out of a boot

with instructions written under the heel.

I’m tired.

It’s always easy for me to watch Gettysburg because while I possibly have much of the script memorised, my empathy with their emotions experiences change and often exposes me to new perspectives.

This particular piece gives me empathy for both the exhausted soldier ready to quit and the officer who represents so much of middle management: stuck between rage and disorganization.

Having been both “in the middle” and a consultant for those “in the middle”, I can replace those angry, frustrated, venting words with just about any organizational situation, often out of ignorance of the problems and issues that the staff is so painfully aware.


Even listening to the exhausted soldier fume, I felt defensive. I wanted to explain why those problems existed. But that wasn’t the real issue, was it.

“I’m tired.”

This is the core issue that I felt the officer heard throughout the verbal attack. The approach, when addressing the larger group of soldiers that were giving up, wasn’t defending the issues or the officers. He brought their attention to the real problem and the positive effect that they personally could have if they chose. He chose to take their feelings of low value and clearly explain their value through the big picture … the bottom line.

Let’s remember this lesson as we look at history to remind us that one general wanted to shoot the 114 deserting soldiers, but the other convinced those same soldiers of their value, and those same soldiers sabotaged a crucial flanking position that could have given the South a win for Gettysburg.

Crossposted on LinkedIn at Problem solving isn’t always solving the problem presented 

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.