Category Archives: Problem Solving
Holding leaders and staff accountable is crucial to improving processes and determining if the process is bad or if the tasks are just not being performed. Regular meetings allow the leaders to review key measures, refine action plans, and discuss what is and isn’t working.
How is this accomplished?
1. Document the results. Select the indicators that matter, identify short and long-term goals and use a balanced scorecard to track perfomance monthly. Click here to read Organizational Results: Set Demanding Goals.
2. Communicate the problem, the plan and the progress. Keep your key stakeholders informed. Tell them what the problem is, how you plan to fix it, and when they can expect to begin seeing improved results.
3. Design, document and deploy new processes. Click here to read Organizational Results: Demand Process Improvement and click here to read Organizational Results: Adopt Evidence-Based Processes.
4. Improve the problem solving process. Take a few days to enjoy success, then reflect on what went well and what could have gone better and implement the improvements with the next problem that needs solved.
How do you check the effectiveness of process change?
Detailed planning is necessary to ensure the process changes are successfully implemented. Even the best leaders will do what they want and what they enjoy rather than the tasks that must be completed. Creating detailed task lists is one technique to ensure the process improvements are implemented and that leaders stay-focused the work that needs to be performed.
1. Decide on the next steps. Take time as a team to prepare a thoughtful and organized task list. Start each task with a verb. Identify which leader is responsible and when the task will be completed.
2. Write an action plan. Click here to read Organizational Results: Insist on Innovative Action Plans.
3. Agree on a timeline. Task lists keep leaders focused on the work that needs to get done in order to produce results and minimizes their ability to do what they want to do.
4. Execute the plan.
5. Select indicators to measure progress. Identify the key measures that indicate performance. Click here to read Organizational Result: Measure Things That Matter.
How do you implement process improvements?
Leaders rarely, if ever, have to make a decision in a vacuum. In fact, most of the best decisions are made by teams. When leaders with passion, focus and determination get together sparks fly and improved results follow. How do leaders do this?
1. Identify failure to follow process. Document the steps of the process as it should flow, verify it and then require that everyone follow it. Click here to read Organizational Results: Adopt Evidence-Based Processes.
2. Identify the available options. Begin your list with doing nothing. End it with the ridiculous. Then consider every other reasonable option in between.
3. Consider the pros and cons for each option. This process quickly eliminates any unreasonable option yet demonstrates that everything was considered.
4. Select the best option.
How do you begin to solve problems?
We all have problems. We know what the problems are yet we resist fixing our own problems. It usually feels better to focus on someone else’s problems. It is definitely more fun to tell them how to fix their problems. We like to do this because our own problems are sometimes too hard, too painful, too overwhelming, too time consuming, or too emotionally draining.
One leader recently observed in a recent blog post that “we show up and do ALL of what we WANT to do and SOME of what we HAVE to do”. How do we get beyond this?
1. Make a list of your problems. For those who hate lists, someone (usually a leader) must make the list for them, maintain it and hold them accountable. Some who hate lists but recognize their value will make themselves keep lists. And peer pressure helps.
2. Make sure the problems are yours. Sometime we accept the monkey on our back when it isn’t our monkey to take. There is nothing wrong with being helpful, listening and even offering suggestions. Hold your peers accountable for solving their own problems.
3. Ask yourself key questions. Does this problem prevent me or the organization from producing results? What result am I trying to produce? Does anyone else care about this problem? What will happen if this problem does not get resolved? Click here to read Organizational Results: Decide on the Results You Want.
4. Organize the list of problems. Create a task list organized by the order in which the task would ideally occur. Start each task with a verb, add deadlines with dates and assign responsibility if others will be involved. Click here to read Organizational Results: Reduce Processes to Simple Tasks.
How do you prioritize problems?
Call AAA. No, I am not referring to The American Automobile Association, although they help when flat tires are the problem. In this case AAA stands for awareness, acknowledge, and acceptance. Awareness that something isn’t right is the first step for the leader. Leaders must then acknowledge, and accept there is a problem. Just how do leaders accomplish this?
1. Identify the real problem. When rounding with frontline staff ask them to list their top 3 to 5 issues and intently listen to them. Taking time to closely examine your key indicator results that are not meeting the goal is another way to identify problems.
2. Identify and engage passionate leaders. Find leaders who have a “will do” attitude and are good humored but relentless about getting results. Give them your support and let them fly!
3. Clarify expectations. From how often the team meets to exactly what is going to be accomplished, clearly communicate what needs to be accomplished. Click here to read Organizational Results: Clarify Behavioral Expectations.
4. Identify key contributions to the problem. Use data and facts rather than feelings and emotions to solve the problem. It is much easier to explain and defend.
5. Identify flawed processes. Identify the process involved and ask a few of the most knowledgeable frontline staff to meet with the team to document each of the key steps. Be sure to document what really happens, as opposed what should happen. Click here to read Organizational Results: Demand Process Improvement.
6. Acknowledge and accept human errors. People make mistakes. No matter how good the intentions or redundant the process, mistakes happen. That is a fact. The key is to make mistakes rare and harmless.
How do you identify problems?
Problems are all around us. If everyone knew what to do and how to do it, it would be easy. Leaders would not be needed. It is our obligation as leaders to solve problems in a thoughtful, dispassionate way. We must solve problems in order to achieve and sustain organizational excellence. Leaders exist for this very reason. One of our many jobs is to decide which problems need solved. So where do you begin?
1. Use data. Data is plentiful and at our fingertips. Begin studying department or organization indicators that are not meeting goal or the benchmark. Review feedback reports, inspection summaries, and survey results to identify additional opportunities. Click here to read Organizational Results: Display Comparative Data
2. Ask key stakeholders. Ask leaders what the top 3 to 5 issues are in their department. When rounding and talking with employees, ask them what can be done to make their work easier. Conduct focus groups to drill down into issues and concerns to get to the root of the problem.
3. Listen intently. After asking your questions, be quiet. Refrain from trying to explain what has been done, what is planned or why.
4. Make a list. List the problems you have found through your data review, those your key stakeholders have shared, and the problems you have heard from listening intensely.
How do you know when you have a problem?