I’m sure you’ve heard it said: “Don’t come to me about a problem unless you have a solution” This is just plain wrong. The statement is by itself a problem, but in this case we do know how to fix it.
The process of employee engagement encourages people to identify problems in their workplaces. We do not want to stifle the identification of problems by insisting the person also have a solution. We want to get any and all problems out on the table, as solving them improves the workplace.
You may recognize a concern in your environment and know that it hampers production, quality, or other factors. If you can’t find a good solution, other people can. We engage employees in problem solving because none of us is a smart as all of us. Since I do not know the answer, our colleagues should be included in any effort to solve problems.
Even if I think I do have a possible solution to the problem, we should still involve others. Even though I may think I know the answer, it may not be the best option. Involving others can result in the best possible solution with the fewest negative consequences.
Trying to implement the only solution we develop is called the fallacy of the single solution. Every problem can be resolved in more than one way. Our job as leaders or members of a team is not to rely on a single option, it is to find the best and strongest solutions. We brainstorm as many options as we can and determine which one (or ones) will work best. In the process, we identify the root cause of the problem to be certain we know we are working on the real issue and not its symptoms. Fixing symptoms almost never solves problems, fixing root causes will.
Insisting people have a solution in mind when they bring up a problem is harmful to real problem solving. It throws roadblocks into the process. Our goal should be to encourage people to identify problems and bring them forward for the group to try to solve. In doing so, they can explore as many possible solutions directed at improving the work system.