The size of the person is more important than the size of the problem.
This chapter of Maxwell's book deals with the two things needed to effectively solve problems: the right attitude and the right action plan.
The two previous installments discussed Maxwell's observations regarding problems and problem-solving. Today, we will explore The Problem Solving Process.
The Problem Solving Process
- Identify the Problem.
- Too many times we attack the symptoms, not the cause.
- Whether you face three problems, thirty, or three hundred, "make them stand in single file so you face only one at a time."
- Approach these problems, not with a view of finding what you hope will be there, but to get the truth and the realities that must be grappled with.
- In a single sentence, answer the question, "What is the problem?"
- Defining the problem in a single sentence is a four step-process:
- Ask the right questions.
- Ask process-related questions.
- Two words that always govern Maxwell's questions are trends and timing.
- Most problem trails can be sniffed out if specific questions are asked in these two areas.
- Beware of authorities with a "we-know-better" attitude.
- These people have blind spots and are resistant to change.
- Creativity is essential for problem-solving.
- "Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you." - Peter Drucker
- Listen to what is not being said and gather the important data.
- Get involved in the process by doing the actual jobs of the people concerned and see what problems arise.
- Problems should be solved at the lowest level possible because that is where they appear. That is also the level where they are most clearly defined.
- Before inviting people to attend a problem-solving meeting, ask these questions:
- Is it a real problem?
- Is it urgent?
- Is the true nature of the problem known?
- Is it specific?
- Has the group most competent to discuss the problem been invited and is each participant concerned about solving this issue?
- List all the possible causes of the problem by asking what caused the problem and how the problem can be avoided in the future.
- List as many solutions to a problem as possible.
- Options are essential because a problem continually shifts and changes.
- Weigh all the possible solutions before deciding by asking the following questions:
- Which solution has the greatest potential to be right?
- Which solution is in the best interest of the organization?
- Which solution has momentum and timing on it's side?
- Which solution has the greatest chance for success?
- Ask these questions to evaluate the responses:
- Were we able to identify the real causes of the problem?
- Did we make the right decision?
- Has the problem been resolved?
- Have the key people accepted this solution?
- Did I help people to develop problem-solving skills to manage conflict in the future?
- Whereas policies are set up for a particular function in a specific area, principles are guidelines for everyone and are more general. Policies change when their use is no longer essential. Principles do not change.
- To teach principles effectively, you must:
- Model them.
- Relate them by answering the questions, "How can I use this in my life?"
- Applaud when you see the principles being applied in another's life.
On another thought ... does this Problem-Solving Process remind you of the Rapid Improvement Workshop utilized by our Continuous Improvement Team in the Colas Goal Zero Process? Or, is it just me?
Donald G Rosenbarger
Senior Vice President
Delta Companies Inc