Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Solution Is In There Somewhere

When faced with a problem that could have multiple solutions, what do you do? There are plenty of resources available about problem solving yet like so many other things the zeal for which a technique or methodology is pursued or applied doesn’t always deliver the best or most appropriate results. And anyway, what’s wrong with the KISS (keep it simple stupid) approach? It’s very effective and can remove a plethora of bureaucracy. There are other benefits too, 4 of which I’ve explored further in this month’s article.

Have a read and tell us how you go about uncovering and agreeing solutions to project challenges.

Managers can be heard the world over decreeing ‘bring me solutions not problems’. The statement makes sense if the problem is well defined and the manager’s only needed to ratify the recommendation. Before you get to the point of making a recommended time must be spent problem solving. 

A quick Google search using the term ‘problem solving techniques’ just gave me over 56million results. That means there’s plenty of information and guidance out there in the ether on how to go about problem solving. Yet like so many other things the zeal for which a technique or methodology is pursued or applied doesn’t always deliver better results. And anyway, what’s wrong with the KISS approach?

Recently I’ve been involved in discussing and defining business requirements for a system implementation. There were, unsurprisingly, some challenges along the way. The technique chosen to resolve these challenges was perfect in its simplicity; the group talked about and worked through their ideas and solutions until they found the best one. The tools available included the brains, knowledge and experience of those in the room, a whiteboard, and the occasional calculating power of Excel. Fundamentally they used the KISS approach by:
  • Clearly defining and articulating the problem
  • Talking through the ideas and options
  • Agreeing the solution

Admittedly we had the right people in the room who were clear on what had to be done and willing to take decisions. But equally there was no complicated process and no different coloured hats. Everyone was clear on the overall drivers and ultimate goal, got stuck in and was determined to find and agree a suitable solution.

Keeping the approach simple isn’t the only positive. Organisations who complain about low productivity, unengaged employees and increasing costs along with employees who grumble about micro-management, slow decision making and not being empowered to get things done, will find much more freedom, motivation and momentum as they simplify their approach. Here are 4 benefits that can be gained and help further diminish those complaints over time…

1. Working together People talk a lot about working together yet in reality people spend more time on status updates, positioning or working in parallel rather than actually knuckling down to work through a problem together. When people really work together, as in my example above, there’s mutual respect, all ideas and concerns are worth exploring, collective brain power will spark other thoughts, and working scenarios through logically will prove or disprove them.

2. More efficient and effectiveThe longer it takes to resolve a problem the more time passes and costs increase. By simplifying how a problem is approached means people can make earlier and more competent contributions (shorter timeframe = efficient) and are more likely to be successful in producing a useful result (reduce change of repeating the work = effective).

3. Willingness to listen - It’s not enough to talk about the various solutions; people also have to listen to what others are saying about those solutions. A solution may be great for one person, process or part of the organisation but a complete disaster for another. A willingness to listen and understand other points of view, challenges and concerns is crucial to finding a valid solution. 

4. Compromise and continueThere will be times when compromises must be made. Compromise is not about giving in to pressure and being unhappy about the results. Compromises are reached when the parties involved make concessions. If the goal is to implement a system using standard functionality the business may compromise by changing a process instead. Agreeing a compromise means you’ve successfully worked together, been efficient and effective, listened to others and reached a solution that means work can continue.

There’s always a solution and by keeping things simple that solution can be uncovered and agreed sooner rather than later.

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