Becoming Problem Solvers
Making improvements is usually about problem solving.
The biggest challenges involve getting to the root causes, eliminating those causes, and achieving a new sustainable process.
Sounds Simple Enough!
But, before you can tackle those problems, your people need problem solving skills that work.
If you are the executive in charge, then you have probably solved hundreds of difficult problems in your career.
Perhaps, your hardest unsolved problem is how to develop your people to be the problem solvers you need?
Telling everyone to “try harder,” “deal with it,” or go watch a free YouTube video is just foolish nonsense.
The easy problems have been solved; it’s time to work the ones that keep coming back after you thought a fix had been found.
Unsolved Problems Are Not Fun!
Chaotic trial and error can be fun in a laboratory.
It’s not so fun when a problem keeps coming back and your customers, suppliers, or employees wonder who is routinely driving your bus into the ditch.
A culture that celebrates fire fighting will seldom eliminate the root causes of their problems. Fires are fun to watch and it feels great to praise the person who puts out the fire.
Of course, we all know that the best fire fighters are often the same people that start those fires.
“70% of CEO failures come not as a result of poor strategy, but of poor execution” – Ram Charan and Geoffrey Colvin in Fortune Magazine
A Program That Works
We have seen the challenges people face and have been helping those same people succeed.
Building upon our experience, we have designed a complete program to guide organizations through a systematic approach to driving change and making the improvements required to achieve strategic initiatives.
We call it Coaching Supported Improvement or CSI.
Our approach is to help organizations develop problem solving capabilities through continual dialogue between problem solvers and a coach from Transformance Advisors.
Our goal is to make the process of problem solving transparent and teachable in order to create an organization populated with problem solvers.
Two Critical Roles
A critical aspect of our program is having two defined roles.
Your Coach from our team takes responsibility to guide the problem solver through a systematic process and provide advice on options and alternatives for being successful.
Your Problem Solver from your organization takes responsibility to solve the problem through a systematic process to develop and champion a proposal to fix the problem.
“We have come a long way in a short time. 4 months ago, I felt somewhat defeated by the serious flaws in our problem solving management habits. The 12-week program of coaching for our core leadership team has helped us see and feel how it should work. It has been critical as we develop the problem solving capability we have been searching for.” – Jodi Walsh, Strategic Advisor, Lexmark International
Five Phase Process for Coaching Supported Improvement
One: Identify Priorities
We begin with your objectives such as a review of your 3 to 5 strategic initiatives.
- What are you seeking to accomplish?
- What gaps do you need to close?
- Where are you facing significant challenges?
- Which challenges do not have a clear path to resolution?
This phase is a joint effort between the executive sponsor, your problem solver, and your coach from Transformance Advisors.
Two: Problem Selection
Select a problem that will make a difference.
- Select a challenge from phase one
- Scope for 90 to 120 days
- Establish target dates
- Identify resources that will help
- Schedule a weekly cadence
Setting target dates with expectations for weekly progress that will monitored with green-yellow-red status reporting.
“The weekly cadence of coaching sessions was a fundamental element of our success. It seems so simple and elementary – but we would not have stuck to the execution plan without that weekly meeting.” – Jodi Walsh, Strategic Advisor, Lexmark International
Three: Problem Solving
Get to work using our systematic approach.
We will coach the problem solver through our 5-stage methodology.
The problem solver will investigate, organize the facts, expose the myths, tell the story about the problem, craft a solution, and champion the changes required.
It will be time to end any bad habits such as jumping to conclusions and applying poor fixes that are doomed to fail.
Four: Repeatable Process
Establish a repeatable process.
- Document benefits
- Standard work for problem solvers
- Standard work for coaches
- Problem solver ready to coach
- Recognition system
Now that you have experienced a problem solving methodology that works, you need to standardize and repeat this approach in the future.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex; it takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein
Five: Next Problem
Go get the next problem.
You now have the wind at your back.
You have experience with a proven methodology and the only thing that can stop you is not having any problems to fix!
But caution is advised. You can’t go grab the next 200 problems and overwhelm your problem solving capabilities. Focus on strategic initiatives and scope your efforts for things you can solve in 90 to 120 days.
“Going through the coaching program with Mike, from Transformance Advisors, has helped me understand why my past coaching efforts were not as effective as I would have liked. I will adopt the approach I learned in the sessions I had with Mike, and I am sure my next coaching efforts will be more successful.” – Don Knowles, General Manager, Lexmark International Boulder
A typical path for developing problem solving skills for an organization includes:
- An executive sponsor sees the opportunities for building a team of problem solvers
- Identify 3 to 4 key people that will invest weekly efforts to work the process and become problem solvers
- Conduct kick-off meeting for problem selection and process training – 12 week commitment with upfront schedule
- Transformance Advisors provides 1 hour of coaching per week for each problem solver
Question 1: We have tried these problem solving programs that everyone claims are quick and easy. Our results have not been impressive. Why are you different?
Answer: We do not agree with the charlatans claiming quick and easy solutions. Today’s problems often have root causes that are hard to find and eliminate. We will coach you through a methodology that works. It will not be easy, but our coaching supported improvement program will eliminate the confusion on what to do and when to do it.
Question 2: How is your approach different than the lean tool called A3 Problem Solving?
We leverage many of the positive features found in the A3 tool. However, we have seen too many organizations fail and become very frustrated. We have addressed the shortcomings in the A3 approach that include drive-by training, claims of too easy to fail, claims of use every day for every problem, and the lack of coaching for the problem solver.
Question 3: I’ve heard about these problem solving programs designed to be used every day for every problem. This sounds great, almost too good to be true. Will your approach be the only methodology we will need?
Answer: We know you will be able to use our methodology for many problems you face. Recall that guru of infinite wisdom who warned us: “if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” Other methodologies, such as Six Sigma and Lean Projects using Value Stream Mapping have their place. The great news is that most proven methodologies have 5 steps – just like our approach. It’s the thinking process and the natural progression to problem solving that takes 5 separate steps; this is the magic formula.