When a group or an individual is presented a problem to be solved, the first thing they normally do is quickly come up with a solution. This may be the worst thing they can do.
It is basic human nature to want the problem quickly. Groups want to show they can solve problems expeditiously, and their constituents probably expect no less. These quick answers often are directed at the symptoms of the problem, not the root cause. As such, the fast answers will probably fail to be effective and may cause new problems.
We recently wrote about the importance of preparation throughout the problem-solving process. This includes testing our assumptions about what is taking place before we begin to consider possible solutions.
As we develop what we believe might be a solution to a problem, we need to be careful we do not rush to judgement. If a team has been working on a problem for a while, it may be tempting to want to enact the first possible solution without first carefully examining its potential effectiveness and any possible negative ramifications.
We worked with a team that was attempting to resolve a difficult issue that impacted over 30 locations around the state. Success would result in saving jobs and cutting costs at all locations. After a few meetings, the group came up with an answer and was anxious to put it in place. Someone on the team raised the question about whether all of the locations handled this issue in the same way. While many were certain this was the case, it was decided to hold up the implementation until the next meeting. This gave team members the chance to check with each facility.
At the next meeting, they discovered their assumptions were wrong, and the proposed solution would have caused more problems at some locations. With a couple of simple modifications, a workable solution was put into place. Money and jobs were saved, and the team developed confidence in their ability to solve problems that paid dividends as they continued their work on other issues.
Newly formed groups often overlook the need to analyze the causes of problems and prepare before trying to develop solutions. New teams tend to overestimate their ability to solve problems. They feel they can move quickly and are anxious to do so. If the rush results in ineffective solutions it can hurt the ongoing willingness of the team to confront future issues.
Effective problem solving takes effort and patience. It tests the commitment of team members to spend the time to do the job right. Decisions may not come as fast as some would like, but they are usually stronger and more likely to succeed. It’s worth the effort.
If your team would like to improve its problem-solving ability, CALMC can help. Give us a call or an email to talk.