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.
But, before you can tackle those problems, your people need problem solving skills which 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 which 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. Your customers, suppliers, or employees wonder who is routinely driving your bus into the ditch.
A culture which 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 the best fire fighters are often the same people who start those fires.
A Program That Works
At Transformance Advisors, 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.
“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 with Mike.”
“By nature, I am a problem solver. The coaching program, from Transformance Advisors, has taught me how to ask the right types of questions to assist the problem solver without actually attempting to solve the problem myself.”
“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.”
I learned about waste elimination in a lean way and not the whack-a-mole methods characterized by chaotic cost cutters.”
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.
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 which will make a difference:
- Select a challenge from phase one
- Scope for 90 to 120 days
- Establish target dates
- Identify resources who will help
- Schedule a weekly cadence
Set target dates with expectations for weekly progress which will be monitored with green-yellow-red status reporting.
Three: Problem Solving
We will coach the problem solver through our 5-stage methodology. The problem solver will:
- Organize the facts
- Expose the myths
- Tell the story about the problem
- Craft a solution
- Champion the changes required
It will be time to end bad habits. No more jumping to conclusions or applying poor fixes doomed to fail.
Four: Repeatable Process
Time to 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 which works, you need to standardize and repeat this approach in the future.
Five: Next Problem
Go get the next problem:
- You now have the wind at your back
- You have experience with a proven methodology
- The only thing which 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.
“The coaching program, from Transformance Advisors, for our leadership team has helped us see and feel how problem solving should work. It has been critical in helping us develop the capability we have been searching for.”
“Going through the coaching program, 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, and I am sure my next coaching efforts will be more successful.”
“And then one day, we all got a short training class and started doing A3 forms. It was a disaster!”
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 who 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 which 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 which are hard to find and eliminate. We will coach you through a methodology which 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 technique called A3 Problem Solving?
We leverage many of the positive features found in the A3 technique. However, we have seen too many organizations fail and become very frustrated. We have addressed the shortcomings in the A3 approach which include drive-by training, claims of too easy to fail, claims of using 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. It is not the only approach you will every need. Recall the 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 Value Stream Mapping have their place.