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How to create a problem solving culture in your company
Posted by Alison Leishman

We all face problems - at work, at home and, of course, our own internal conflict.

This week we spent some time looking at  our company’s mindset, and to try and enhance  the problem solving culture within our organisation. This is not only important for efficiency, but also for empowering leadership within the organisation. Though we all have our areas of expertise and skills, becoming the ‘magician’ who solves all the problems doesn’t help with the company’s goal of developing people and creating an organisation that embraces lifelong learning. We need to facilitate the development of a team of problem solvers - it is time for everyone to flex their problem solving muscles.We were fortunate to spend some time with Rory Simpson and Willard Booth from 7stage Advisors looking at a three step problem solving approach.  Starting with this great video from Tony Robbins: 

 

The 3 steps to follow to solve a problem 


1. IDENTIFY THE ISSUE

This is a vital step in the process that needs to be established before investing time investigating solutions. You’ll often be surprised by the outcome - what you thought was the problem may appear completely differently once you’ve drilled down into the details.

Some key questions to ask when faced with a challenge/problem (before asking anyone else for their input) are:

  • Who is raising this challenge?
  • What organisation are they connected to - with this client or similar client?
  • When does this problem need to be solved by?
  • Have we dealt with this type of challenge in the past?
  • What did we do last time and what worked?
  • Do we have a process to deal with this?
  • Are all the pieces of the process working?
  • Is what I am seeing a symptom of a problem, or the actual problem itself?

Remember - you need to probe into the challenge to identify the real problem.

Then speak to your other team members. Describe the situation with precision, sticking to two sentences and ask: have you had this in the past and what did you do?

Remember that you’re part of a team of people, and every team has multiple facets and subsequently multiple skills. This is a mine of untapped resources and dependant on the scope and size of the problem, you can invest time with other people exploring the actual problem as well as creatively addressing solutions.

 2. CREATE THE PROPOSAL

Remember - there is always more than one option available. As Tony Robbins explains, when you have one option you have no choice. When you have two options, you don’t have a solution, you merely have a dilemma - and it’s the path of least resistance to choose the lesser of the two evils. You need a minimum of three options. Then you can discover a solution - you will have created a forum for discussion and out of this a solution can emerge… which may very well not be one of the original three! Keep the discussion in proportion to the size and impact of the problem as well as the time frame; efficiency remains important.

In order to encourage a problem solving culture we constantly need to ask ourselves why, and only stop when there are no more whys to be answered. At that point we know that we are ready to go ahead to the next step with our possible solutions.

 3. PRESENT THE PROPOSAL - AND GET AUTHORISATION

Finally, get ready to present your solution:

  • You need to craft a response with your choice of the best solution as well as two alternatives.
  • Choose the presentation style based on the person you are presenting to ( a Powerpoint vs. a spreadsheet for example).
  • Take the person you are presenting to through your thought processes - remember they were not a fly on the wall through your problem solving process. But keep it to the point.

Outcomes of this discussion should be to :

  • Establish that you’re moving in the right direction - don’t waste energy and time on solutions that won’t be approved.
  • Enquire whether there are any adjustments that need to be made
  • Get permission to move forward on the solution

Don’t skip steps - rather spend time on all the steps and if need be shorten the time in the step (for example, you don’t always need to have a meeting in order to probe the challenge or find the solutions - a quick conversation can suffice).

Finally, remember to explore the consequences of your decision and of each action. This will be your guiding light in deciding on the solution you are going to recommend to your supervisor or client.

In order to create a culture of problem solving as well as analytical thinking encourage your staff to come to all brainstorming sessions with this in mind - imagine the power of three unique solutions in each session - and the creative potential that will be released will be astounding!

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