Contrary to popular opinion, achieving your final destination as quickly as possible may not always be the best choice. Although we feel pressure to tackle our projects speedily so we can move on to our next task, that approach may be doing us a disservice.
Has this ever happened to you?
You and your team decide to brainstorm ways to solve a tricky problem you are facing. You keep the process going in order not to lose momentum as you have a looming deadline. Time is chasing you madly. You think you know what to do after a brief discussion so you make a quick decision. Done. You all agree on the solution and put the game plan into action to meet the deadline. Except for one thing. You didn’t clearly define the problem so you are instituting a solution that is far off center from what is really going on. You rammed through the problem solving process not allowing much disagreement or questions. Now the team must go back to the drawing board and begin the process all over again.
Striking the right balance between dealing with a tight time crunch and arriving at the best solution is essential for team success. We need to make sure we honor and rejoice in each step of the process. Here are are few tips to guide us into first base:
When we initially address a roadblock it is critical to clearly define the problem. If teams generate data and solutions for the wrong problem they will never hit the right solution. A good question to ask that may actually get you closer to the challenge is: What is not the problem?
Keeping the discussion on track while facilitating the suggestions and ideas being shared can prevent a team from derailment. Use a flip chart to write down what each person thinks is the real problem. Look at all sides of the problem, not allowing solutions to be initially introduced. That comes later. Remember finding the solution too quickly can lead to detrimental results or a total do-over.
We all know what it feels like when we have too many opinions, all competing to be the “chosen one”. We can end up with an insurmountable amount of data to slosh through. The flip side is actually worse. When people’s ideas are not considered or ruled out before careful analysis, the best suggestion may be overlooked. Welcome all the input and then explore its viability.
No one wants to miss a deadline but what is more damaging is not taking enough time to process the data and then jumping to the wrong conclusions. Patience is needed for a team to define the problem correctly before rushing to decide on the best solutions. An important part of problem solving is leaving no stone unturned so even the most unlikely possibilities are exposed. When was the last time you said: “I should not have spent so much time on this issue even though we clearly defined the real problem.” Probably never. Getting the problem identified will always put you on a path to stronger and beneficial solutions. Getting a successful hit to first base may be just what helps a team win the game.
What has been your experience in problem solving? How do you make sure you’re solving the real issues at hand?