Adopting a Proven Process for Problem Solving
What are Top Maryland Businesses Doing Differently?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Chapter 4, “How to Analyze and Solve Worry Problems” in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”
- Patrick Lencioni’s “Achieving Buy-In”:
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