Every day you face problems, some you will discover and others will discover you. How you deal with problems will determine how much time you have left to deal with important growth issues in your business. After years of experience I have found this process, if used properly, can make us heroes.
First, define the problem – Be proactive, anticipate where possible, this can help minimize but never eliminate problems. The more urgent the issue the deeper you will need to dig and ferret out the details. This should be a fact hunt, not a blame fest. However, never let anyone present problems without thinking through the situation. Part of your modus operand should be that people who bring problems also suggest at least one solution they would recommend. This is critical. If you don’t keep this practice in place, someone, more than likely you, will be stuck solving all the problems. When this happens there will not enough time to be proactive and successful.
Second, gather data and analyze the problem – When you, as a team, define the problem, be sure to uncover hidden expectations and relationships but control time frames for discovery, based on urgency and potential damage. Make sure you remove time wasters and analysis paralysis. If a problem is a high priority issue, make sure the timetable is consistent with the desired resolution and the perceived urgency. Time is money so invest it wisely.
Third, generate potential solutions. This should again be a team activity, avoid dictating any solutions, if possible. Allow employees to participate in the resolutions and in the next step; The Decision. If people do not feel they have any input in their working environment they are more apt to become disengaged. Productivity can diminish, resulting in less revenue and profit for the company. Always ask the question, who can help us with suggestions for improving the process through the solution maze. Reach outside of the normal participants. Don’t rule out talking with the customers or users to get solution insights. Once you have a number of potential solutions, prioritize them based on impact and potential. Note, this will vary by industry or work environment. Establish success metrics for each of the prioritized solutions, both hard and soft factors and make sure that each is agreed to and documented in the presentation.
Fourthly, Select and carry out a solution from the prioritized pool. Ultimately, someone has to make a final decision based on customer impact, employee relations, profitability, revenue, cost avoidance or other business factors the business requires. However, make sure you are communicating the process and outcomes in a positive and supportive fashion. The higher the impact, especially perceived negative impacts, on the internal employees, the more critical this step can become. Define the implementation process and who will be accountable for each step. Once begun, the communication must continue to the point of being part of the daily process. Success will breed success. Monitor the milestones and ensure you are meeting the dates and process steps defined in the approved solution.
Finally, evaluate the solution and declare success or the need to reassess. If a solution is successful then there needs to be a celebration, people need to know their work paid off and there are the results. In the event the solution is less than effective, look at the portions that are not successful and reassess the processes or products and make the necessary changes.
Thomas Edison did not fail thousands of times developing the light bulb, he just found thousands of ways it would not work. The key is; persistence can pay off if the initial goals and expectations are well-defined and understood.
Can this process work every time, YES? Will it be implemented correctly every time, NO! This is where your management skills come to the forefront. How the process is driven should be facilitated by you, the manager or senior executive, but you cannot do it alone. Embrace your customers and employees as advocates and supporters then think in terms of innovation and growth. If you need help with defining your processes please visit my website or call me at 630-454-4821.