Is your team ready and capable to solve problems? Create a problem solving team that can easily, regularly and confidently solve any problems that they face.
1. Systemize Problem Solving
Problem solving is not a skill we usually teach in business. One of the reasons for this is the assumption that people naturally should be able to solve problems. The truth is that some can and some cannot.
Across your whole team, it is possible for everyone to become a problem-solver. We do this in two ways. Firstly, build into your organization a culture of thinking. And secondly teach them the same thinking skills that they can share together.
Many of my clients are hotels. When I ask my training participants who their previous employer was, naturally, they say many different companies. Then, I make the point that each of those businesses have great training. However, the leadership or problem-solving skills they learned are all different. Different approaches in the team will create conflict.
So, the ultimate way of solving problems in your team is to create a shared business-wide problem solving system. This is taught to everyone in the company and everyone in the company participates in the process. And, once it is operational, it can become a great motivational and team building tool. You can hold problem solving sessions every quarter. Results can be incentivized as a competition. Moreover, the problem-solving teams can be formed from different departments, which encourages communication, coordination and cooperation across the entire business.
The beautiful thing about this idea is that it does not just help your business regularly solve problems. Also, it creates unity, team work, communication and boosts morale at the same time.
2. Eliminate Fear
Fear is the ultimate excuse for inertia, apathy and dead wood in your business. People will not speak up or act because they worry about the consequences.
In Thailand there is a lovely cultural habit called ‘geng jai’. This habit is beautiful because a person who is ‘geng jai’ is showing consideration for other people’s time, effort, energy or whatever it might be they are ‘geng jai’ about.
However, it can also be used to hide behind. On one occasion, there was a big problem in the business, and a person was ‘geng jai’ to their boss because he didn’t want her to worry about the issue, and so he didn’t tell her about it until it was a far bigger problem.
Behind this is a fear of losing face or a fear of upsetting or worrying someone. When we are trying to solve problems this also occurs and it occurs everywhere regardless of culture. People do not want to solve some problems because they are cross-departmental and other leaders may lose face if the issue is raised as a problem.
Eliminating fear is removing negative consequences, as much as possible, from our relational interactions. There will always be a need for discipline inside a business but the bullying, anger and emotion that clouds many people’s working lives simply reinforces the feeling that employees should keep themselves to themselves and not get involved in the process of improvement.
The shame and blame game of conventional organizations must be replaced with trust and respect if we want a concerted effort to solve problems being undertaken across the entire business.
Building a problem-solving culture means uniting our people through skills while building an egoless communication strategy that realizes the free-flow of information and frees people from fear and stress.
3. Go for Quantity Not Quality
When trying to solve problems many people think they have to come up with the best ideas but that is not normally how our minds work.
There is a better way of doing this than aiming for quality.
When people go shopping for a new dress or shirt, they will usually go to a shopping mall. The shopping mall concept is effective all over the world because shoppers love the fact that they have a lot of choice in a single location.
Our thinking should work along the same lines. If we get lots of ideas together in the same place, at the same time, we will surely have more quality than if we only come up with a few ideas.
So, the skills that we teach our people to solve problems should encourage them to think up as many ideas as they can. The best way of doing this is thinking in a team, having fun while doing it and creating a better bond through the process.
Through this process we also reduce the fear and threat present in speaking up and putting our ideas out there for the world to see and criticize. we know that people are afraid of that, so we need to create business cultures that overcome the normal reactions of human nature and allows them to speak up without fear or threat.
4. Include Everyone
Leaders are not the only people who can solve problems. Get everyone involved. That’s what the universal problem-solving system is for (see number one)
If problems are only being solved by the top 10% or 20% of your team, you’re wasting 80% of your potential.
At the end of the day, your business will survive by coming up with new ideas and eliminating problems faster than your competition and the best way to do this is to get more people doing the things that will make you the winner.
5. Incentivize Results
Make solutions a commodity in your business. When a team brings value to your company, reward that team – that is what we do in other areas such as sales or service, for example.
So, when your problem solving system is in place, generate more results by offering incentives to the teams that come up with the best ideas and offer the most value to your business.
Clearly, this is a win-win idea for the business and the people who are doing the thinking. Without the problem solving system, few ideas were being generated by few people. Now you have the system in place, every idea above and beyond what you used to get is a commodity to your business and making them a commodity to your team ensures that flow of ideas will not stop.
The author, Michael Paul Stephens is the founder of Provolution Consultancy, a Thailand-based corporate training business that helps companies build a better culture. His programs have helped thousands of people in diverse companies grow into strong and united teams.
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