Publication 12, Issue 9
When my clients ask me to consult on a problem, I look for four basic things. I call them The Four Sides of Problem Solving, The Corporate Nanny™ style and they tap into all of the Playground Personalities©, but, of course! Here they are:
- Who’s involved? (Peacemaker)
- What’s working or not working? (Organizer)
- What’s getting in the way of progress? (Revolutionary)
- How does the organization want it to work? (Steamroller)
These four questions ground my thinking and help me put together a team of folks to look at all sides of the issue so the senior staff can decide on the best way to approach and solve the problem – sound easy? It is! The trick here is knowing which Playground Personality© is good at answering which question, including all of them and staying out of the way!
Organizations get stuck in problem solving activities because they only focus on the people and/or the process (their checklists), and forget to address Questions 3 & 4. Or they could start working on a solution, and not know how it might impact the people or not have the right information, forgetting to address Questions 1 & 2. These are the exact right questions, so why don’t organizations include everyone in problem solving? When I ask, here’s what I hear:
- “S/he is only concerned about the people.” (Peacemaker)
- “S/he gets in the weeds.” (Organizer)
- “S/he doesn’t sit still long enough for us to ask.” (Revolutionary)
- “S/he over-explains things and tells long stories.” (Steamroller)
To which my reply usually is “You need all of these staff members to solve the problem, even if they get to what you are looking for or trying to do in different ways!”
When organizations get in their own way, they over-think the problem and ask the question “Is it really a problem at all?” Or they think “It’s not that big of a deal” and create a solution from one side. Then you know what happens next, the solution doesn’t work, the problem gets put on the back burner and it rears its ugly head later on!
So, the next time you are solving an organizational problem, promise me two things, one, you’ll reset your thinking by turning the comments above into information you can use and two, you’ll stay out of the way! Here’s how to be open to information from all four sides:
- be curious about the people, after all they do the work!
- get “in the weeds,” so you can figure out exactly which toggles need to be moved.
- be quick on your feet and not afraid to act, so you can try out a solution before going “live.”
- paint the big picture, so everyone knows what the end-game is!
Problem solving from one side without looking at the other three sides will never get you where you want to be! Have the patience for the team to present solutions from all four sides – you’ll be amazed!