Updated: Mar 19, 2019
In part 1 of this 2 part blog, we looks at the importance of having a good understanding of the style preference that employees use when solving for a problem. It is also exceedingly important that there is a method to managing the madness involved in problem solving.
As discussed previously, to get to the root cause of your organization’s problems, a more proactive means of solving the problem needs to be utilized. And for this to happen two things need to be considered:
1) The problem-solving style of the people who are solving the problem
2) The process being used to solve the problem, where a best practice includes:
a. Defining the Problem
b. Developing Solutions
c. Creating and Executing a Plan
This blog will focus on the process that should be used to solve the problem
THE CALCULATED PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS
Most organizations do not employ any structured process to handle organizational problems. Although employees are quite capable of putting out fires, they quickly get tired of addressing the same issues and morale suffers. Instead of only dealing with the fires, it is possible to prevent the fire from ever happening by using the following three-pronged approach.
Defining the Problem
Albert Einstein has been attributed to making the following quote related to having only 1 hour to solve a serious problem, where he said, “I Would Spend 55 Minutes Defining the Problem and then Five Minutes Solving It”. Although we are unlikely to have Einsteinian ability to either define a problem or solve it, the point about the importance of defining the problem is well stated.
Most of the time organizations only have a fuzzy understanding of a problem, which often leads to focusing on the wrong problem to solve. This is because it takes times and discipline to surface all the facts and identify those which are the main contributors to the problem.
Until you clearly understand what you are solving, you should not move forward with developing a solution.
How much time do you typically spend dissecting problems within your organization? Do you use a structured approach to deeply understand why things are happening or just get the basics of the problem and then go solve it?
Solving problems should be fun, providing that you have created the right atmosphere to allow for creative solutions. All too often, brainstorming sessions are conducted in methodical step-wise fashion in a stuffy boardroom. Employees solutions are quickly shot down (from verbal and non-verbal cues) if they suggest anything radical or outside the norm. Sadly, the usual conclusion is that brainstorming does not yield any worthwhile results and things either quickly return to normal or in many cases get worse.
Do you create the right atmosphere when conducting brainstorming? Do you look for multiple solutions to the problem or just stop at one and try to make it work?
Creating and Executing a Plan
The third step is all about establishing accountability, actions, and timelines. I’ve witnessed too many times where an organization will invest $100K+ to fly in several high-priced executives who spend a couple days working with a consultant to define the problem and create solutions. However, when it comes time to establish the execution plan, those same executives are rushing off to catch their flight or to catch-up on the emails they missed. The hard truth is that without this plan none of the work will get done.
From the start of the meeting, there needs to be an expectation that the meeting will end with a plan that states what tasks need to get done, when will the task be done, insights on how the task will get done and who owns the task. In addition, there needs to be a governance structure established that helps keep things on track.
Do you typically end your major meetings with a clear plan for execution? Do you have a structure in place that helps to guide accountability for the work to be done?
In close, ask yourself if you are spending more time than you would like extinguishing fires? If so, talk to The Noble Consulting Group about how you can deploy a calculated problem-solving approach to help you get back to doing what you love.