How often you are in board meetings, staff meetings, customer meetings, supplier meetings, etc. and talk about the same problems over and over? Some problems are out of your control, but many of them can be solved. Every executive agrees that problems are all over the place and they need to be addressed, so why are we struggling with such chronic issues and cannot overcome them once and for all? This begs the question that why do we see them keep coming back over and over?
Working with companies of different sizes, ranging from a handful of employees in one site to a few thousand employees in multiple sites, we have learnt that all operating businesses have their 4Ps under control to some extent: Product, People, Process, Properties. They differ in their strength levels, but the 4Ps exist in all businesses. The successful businesses have one other quality that is missing in others: PROBLEM-SOLVING CULTURE. These successful businesses have problem-solving culture dominated at different levels across their organization. Not having it might not be seen as a big gap, but it is.
Just imagine you are a leader in a perfect organization in a perfect world, where all your problems can be solved in a snap. How beautiful the business life would be? Well, we all know life is not perfect in real-world. The question is how we can get better at problem-solving and get closer to that perfect world? Or, why we don’t do a good job at solving problems and we see them come back over and over.
We should start a problems solving session to solve the problem with problem solving process!
Why problem-solving efforts are not effective? Here is how we would answer that question just based on what we have seen over and over in different organizations. WE AS LEADERS DO NOT DEVELOP PROBLEM SOLVERS, even worse, we quite often kill that culture without knowing it.
But why!? If we all agree that’s an important organizational qualification, why do we not focus on that? Here is the list of reason that we have collected after interviewing people in industry:
We don’t provide our actual problem solvers – our people; doers- with effective training
Quite often we as leaders define big and vague problems that nobody knows how to start solving them
We don’t accept good enough solutions at a time and look for perfect solutions only.
We don’t allow our doers to spend enough time and do not let them fail in solving problems. We don’t appreciate failure.
We don’t provide them with appropriate feedback on how well the problems are solved and how they can get better at it.
Can these problems be solved? Absolutely… There are many companies out there who deal with these challenges and overcame the roadblocks. We can do the same. We just need to be smart enough to acknowledge this as a problem in our organization, find our own true root causes and attack them properly and systematically. We need to learn about problem solving toolkit, learn the best practices and have patience and faith in what we do.