Adopting a Proven Process for Problem Solving

Posted on March 26, 2018 by | 0 comments

What are Top Maryland Businesses Doing Differently?

problem solving at a Maryland business

As an executive, it is likely that one of your greatest skill sets is problem solving and you have a proven track record of success. Most successful business professionals get a thrill from taking a challenge, breaking it down and providing a viable solution that will make an impact. So what are the most successful businesses doing differently?

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It’s All About the Process

We’ve seen many great businesses, all with different problem solving processes—it seems it’s not the process itself, it’s that they have a process. And it is universally taught and religiously used throughout the organization (almost) always.

Resist the urge to quickly identify what you think is the problem and immediately jump to a solution. Many of the successful problem solving processes, such as the one Dale Carnegie teaches, include multiple steps which help to overcome some of the outages caused by “quick” problem solving. The most common outage is not identifying the true problem, but a symptom of the problem. This can leave you with the underlying issue still haunting you well after you’ve put a solution in place.

Here are a few key steps that we live by:

  1. Identify the Problem (Not the symptoms)
    Einstein had said, if he had an hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining it and 5 minutes solving it. So there has to be some weight to this, right? As you embark on your problem solving journey, spend due time truly understanding the problem and gain alignment from the group on exactly what it is. Put your problem ID to the test and bring multiple perspectives in the room—other departments or levels of the organization—and if everyone agrees, chances are you’ve arrived at your core issue.
  2. What are the Causes?
    Write out all of the things that contribute to the problem you’ve identified. This will ensure you understand and address all of the things that are feeding into the problem. If you leave any lingering out there, the likelihood of your solution being successfully implemented is reduced.
  3. What are our Options?
    This step is an independent producer’s worst nightmare. It requires patience and inclusion from all parties involved. Layout all of the possible ways you can address the causes you outlined above and ultimately arrive at a solution.
  4. Align on an Action Plan
    Out of your options above, select which you will be moving forward. Then, outline the steps that need to be taken, who will be doing them and when. This seems simple, but this clarity is often overlooked and results in lack of follow through or execution.
  5. Get Feedback & Optimize
    Unlike the infomercials, problem solving is not set-it and forget-it. Successful implementation requires a clearly defined provision for feedback so set a date and time as soon as you develop the action plan for the team to regroup and gather feedback from any involved parties. Ask yourselves, “How is the new process or idea working?” “Did it turn out the way we thought it would?” And remember, it’s okay if it didn’t. Rarely is something perfect on the first try, especially with extremely complex issues. Be open to feedback and adjust accordingly.

Buy-In Can Change Mindsets

Have you ever heard an employee gripe about a new rule or process that was rolled out? Chances are, they didn’t contribute to the solution and so they have not bought in to it. One of the easiest, yet most impactful changes you can make to your organization is inclusion in the problem solving process.

Teach everyone in your organization the process that your team will use. Then bring impacted team members into the room to solve problems as they occur. It doesn’t need to be everyone if it involves several departments, but you should have representation from each area in the room.

Two amazing things can come out of this. First, you may find as your team members become regimented with a universal problem solving process, you will need to be involved less and less. Secondly, but most culture shattering for your organization, your team members will take ownership over the solutions and work tirelessly towards the end goal or solution.

Simple but Effective

The concept of having a problem-solving process and inclusion may seem incredibly simple but you would be amazed at how few organizations do this well. Master these concepts and you have a leg up on the competition and you’ll see an immediate boost to your organizational health.

Looking for great tools to help you implement these concepts? Here are some of our favorites:

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About Advance:

Advance Business Systems helps organizations focus on their core mission by providing technology that can increase efficiency and effectiveness and services that eliminate the distractions that many organizations face.

Managed Services:

The right resources and a plan are critical to an organization achieving and exceeding their goals. Advance provides services such as IT planning and support that will take IT off your plate, keep you from worrying about data security and position your business for the future.

Business Technology:

Having the right business technology solutions in place, such as multifunctional copiers, interactive white boards and document management software, can greatly improve the flow of information through an organization.

Focus on Your Core Competencies & Eliminate Distractions

Posted on March 15, 2018 by | 0 comments

What are the Best Maryland Businesses Doing Differently?

third party it provider

The complaint we hear most often from high capacity decision makers in an organization is that they face daily distractions from their core focus or their “A time.” We see this a lot in CFO’s and COO’s. They are not able to dedicate the time they need to the core mission of their organization, instead they are putting out fires—from employee issues to data breaches—and they in turn are just getting by rather than helping their organization to get ahead.

According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 14 seconds to get back to the task [after a distraction].”

Imagine this, you have blocked off two hours to get some crucial work accomplished. You spend 20 glorious minutes in full focus, until an employee of yours appears in the doorway, “do you have two seconds for a quick question,” they ask pleadingly. “Of course,” you say, as you minimize your document and give the employee your full attention. You end up speaking to this employee for fifteen minutes, and subsequently working on her issue for another thirty. By the time you get back to your original task, almost an hour had gone by and your “A Time” has all but been spent.

So why are we stuck in this spiral? Consider this, you wouldn’t ask your CFO to make uninformed legal decisions on something that has a huge impact on your business without ensuring they have a legal resource to turn consult but the same often does not hold true for other high risk decisions or areas of expertise. As the business and technology landscape changes, many decision makers find themselves struggling to keep up with the latest thing impacting their business. And the price of not keeping up can be immense—so why do we put ourselves through the stress and exposure to potential risk? The reasons vary from financial reasons to just not knowing what other options are out there.

We’ll walk you through some options and considerations so you can shift your focus back to fulfilling your mission and stop worrying about those things that fall outside of your company’s expertise.

Whether you rely on a partner or internal resource for certain areas of competency may depend on the size and needs of your organization. Not sure where you fall when it comes to IT? Check out this quiz!

First, what are some of the areas successful businesses have transitioned off their plates and on to a third party?

Rationale #1: I’m saving money by keeping these areas in house.

Reality:

Based on the size and sector of your business, that may be true but consider these costs often left out of consideration.

Most employers look at the cost of an employee as their salary plus benefits but the less scrutinized costs associated with the areas outlined above can add up quickly!

  1. Technology. Areas such as IT and marketing can require complex technology from hardware to specific programs needed to manage the workload associated with their roles.
  2. Training. Fields such as IT, HR and Digital Marketing are ever changing at a rapid pace and the risk of not keeping up can often put your company in harm’s way from legal ramifications to lost business and downtime. Ongoing training is essential to just to keep up let alone master the evolving environment. Take the cost and burden off of your team and leverage a third party that specializes in these areas—their livelihood depends on staying on top of the changes and making sure their resources are not only trained but have mastered each area.
  3. Recruiting. There is a big price tag associated with finding and hiring the right resources. Whether it is a recruiting fee or the time you or your people devote to interviewing and onboarding, let that be someone else’s burden and use your time to move your core business forward.
  4. Management and Development. Your time commitment doesn’t end at on-boarding. The on-going management and development of that resource is a burden that falls on you or your highest capacity team members and that is keeping them and you from devoting more time towards your bottom line.

Rationale #2: It is difficult to find a third party resource I can trust.

Reality:

There is no denying that it can be challenging to find the right fit for your organization when it comes to a third party partner. But once you do the confidence and peace of mind pays off in dividends. If you have an internal resource, chances are you had to invest heavily in filling that role, and as we mentioned above, getting them up to speed and continuing their growth. Plus, what happens when that resource is out sick, on vacation or has a need for longer term leave? You are left scrambling to find someone (who will likely be less qualified) to cover for them. For areas such as HR or IT, all it takes is one wrong move by your fill-in to have a huge negative impact on your business. Let’s say your head of IT is out of the office for the week and a data breach occurs? Can you take a chance on having a less qualified resource handle the fallout? If you outsource, find a third party solution that has multiple resources with the same level of expertise so you never skip a beat.

The most successful businesses eliminate distractions for their teams allowing them to focus on their core mission, outperform the competition and have a clear path for growth and longevity. Don’t get stuck in a never-ending cycle of just keeping up or worse, falling behind. Evaluate those areas that you can transition to a third party resource and you could have more time, peace of mind and greater expertise in essential areas.

Whether you rely on a partner or internal resource for certain areas of competency may depend on the size and needs of your organization. Not sure where you fall when it comes to IT? Check out this quiz:

What is the Right IT Solution for Your Business?

About Advance:

Advance Business Systems helps organizations focus on their core mission by providing technology that can increase efficiency and effectiveness and services that eliminate the distractions that many organizations face.

Managed Services:

The right resources and a plan are critical to an organization achieving and exceeding their goals. Advance provides services such as IT planning and support that will take IT off your plate, keep you from worrying about data security and position your business for the future.

Business Technology:

Having the right business technology solutions in place, such as multifunctional copiers, interactive white boards and document management software, can greatly improve the flow of information through an organization.

Building the Right Team

Posted on March 6, 2018 by | 0 comments

What are Successful Maryland Businesses Doing Differently?

hiring the right team

Do you feel like there are not enough hours in a work day to conquer the critical things your business needs to move forward? If you’re like most executives, your calendar is full and only getting more booked up. You are not alone and you most likely do not have a time management problem. Like many organizations, your problem may be not having the right team.

Learn what it takes to be a successful and healthy organization! Sign up for e-mail updates as we explore the top challenges businesses face and what the most successful organizations in Maryland are doing differently, from one executive to another.

Developing Your People & Positioning Them to be Effective

A company’s most valuable resource is their people. Organizations invest a huge amount of money and energy in finding resources but some don’t spend enough time investing in the resources they have and positioning them to be successful. While recruiting and hiring are both critically important, it may not be your starting point.

Rather than starting at square one, make sure you are not overlooking valuable resources already within your organization. With the right development, motivation and positioning, existing team members can flourish.

Are you holding your team members back from taking ownership?

Most managers and executives are high capacity individuals and tend to want to “do” rather than developing their people to do it themselves successfully. This cycle creates an overburden on the manager and complacency in their team members.

Try this:

  1. Don’t take over issues. When your team members come to you with a problem, if your immediate response is to handle it for them, shift the burden and use it as an opportunity for growth. The next time someone comes to you, help them to clearly identify the problem and who would be the right resources to help them identify options and create a solution. Then encourage them to address it with those individuals.
  2. Bite your Tongue. In meetings and presentations, position your team members to take ownership and then avoid jumping in even if you feel you could “help” them by taking over. Instead, follow-up after the meeting and review what the individual thought they did well, what challenges they had and what they could do differently.
  3. Define Latitude. No employee likes to be micromanaged and usually our team members are unsure of what they can and can’t take the reins on. So define exactly what each employee does or does not have the latitude to do or make decisions on. It sounds simple, but very few managers have this conversation and reinforce it regularly.

Looking at Production and Values.

So, how do you assess if you have the right people in your organization? Most healthy organizations evaluate their people on both results and values. It’s not an either/or scenario and the detriment caused by top producers that don’t share your company’s values can be team busting. It’s easy to run through your team and identify who isn’t performing or who has a negative attitude but without clearly defining it and creating an action plan, we can often let it go on for far too long and cause damage to our team or our bottom line.

Try this:

  1. Define your values. Write out the values that are minimum acceptable for your organization—things like honesty that are not unique to your business but that are a must to be part of the organization. Then outline your core values—those that are not universal to all good businesses, but a defining value for yours.
  2. Create measurable results. Ensure that each role, even administrative roles, have measurable outcomes associated with them. What does it mean to be successful? Make sure it is quantifiable and clearly cascaded to each area.
  3. Map out your team. To understand how your team stacks up, plot each person on a matrix with the x axis as results and the y axis as values. For those that fall under the acceptable results line and score low in terms of values, it may be time to coach them out of your organization. Where employees fall short on results but high on values, problem solve their performance issues and put an action plan in place to get them where they need to be.

Hire for Coachability.

Now that you’ve assessed your current resources, you have likely identified gaps in your team, so how do you ensure you bring the right people on board? The hiring process is one of the biggest areas of pain for many organizations. When you look at bringing someone into your organization, identifying their skills and drive may be the easiest part of the evaluation. Harder to do is identifying a good team fit. Will they meld with the team they will be joining and your organization as a whole? Lastly, but potentially most importantly, look for coachability. Someone may be high capacity but if they are not coachable, they may be a short term fit in your organization.

We can probably all think of one person in our organization who fits this description. Incredibly hard working and self-motivated but not open to feedback or working through the ideas or vision of others on a team. This puts a cap on their potential and creates challenges when collaborating with others in your organization.

Try this:

  1. We love the interview questions found in Kevin F. Davis’ book, “Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness” to gauge coachability. They work for any role, not just sales—check them out!

Here are some of our other favorites to check out when trying to build the right team:

Join Email List

About Advance:

Advance Business Systems helps organizations focus on their core mission by providing technology that can increase efficiency and effectiveness and services that eliminate the distractions that many organizations face.

Managed Services:

The right resources and a plan are critical to an organization achieving and exceeding their goals. Advance provides services such as IT planning and support that will take IT off your plate, keep you from worrying about data security and position your business for the future.

Business Technology:

Having the right business technology solutions in place, such as multifunctional copiers, interactive white boards and document management software, can greatly improve the flow of information through an organization.