The biggest mistake that is frequently made when trying to resolve issues in the workplace, is to jump straight to solution mode. When I teach problem-solving skills, I spend the majority of the course focusing on understanding the problem, because the more time we spend here and the deeper we go to understand any underlying issues, the more creative we can be with solutions.
Problem-solving doesn’t have to take a long time, but to understand the issues, we must make sure we have the right people in the room. I have been guilty of trying to resolve an issue using secondhand information relayed by a well-meaning manager. But if you are trying to address an issue that occurs at ‘the coalface’, make sure that the appropriate person or people are involved. And if they can’t come to you then go to them.
In Gino Wakeman’s book Traction, he describes one company who calls these meetings pow-wows. The term pow-wow comes from the North American first nations people, but is also used to describe a conference or discussion.
Time taken with the problem is time saved with the solution
Sometimes, it might feel like a waste of time or disruptive to bring people away from their operational activities. However, a pow-wow doesn’t necessarily have to take very long. The duration will depend on the severity and complexity of the issue. A more complex issue might require multiple meetings to address first the understanding of the problem, followed by an exploration of solutions. A smaller issue might be understood and resolved in one short stand-up if the right people are involved from the beginning.
If you are tasked with solving a problem, you need to explore it from all points of view, and that means making sure you involve all relevant parties. Perhaps you can find a better word at your company than pow-wow, but try getting the right heads together next time you are faced with a problem to solve.