Why Can't We Find A Solution? [Problem-Solving]

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
— Abraham Lincoln

Does this sound familiar?

This morning, three hours discussing the poor results from the employee survey and getting nowhere. We tried to agree some actions to improve satisfaction. But we went round and round in circles. Helen from HR wanted to find ways to get staff more involved. Mike in Manufacturing thought that was a waste of time and we should just rewrite role descriptions so everyone was clear what they should do. Sam from Sales thought getting more involvement from staff and new role descriptions were both a waste of time and that we needed to make our salaries more competitive in the marketplace. We spent 90 minutes just arguing why each of the three solutions were wrong.

No wonder many managers say their meetings don't work. So, what can you do?

In the above example meeting everyone was suggesting solutions, but are they solving different problems? Is the problem to improve employee satisfaction, improve employee involvement, improve job descriptions or make salaries more competitive in the marketplace? These are four different problems which need different solutions. Some frustration is simply from not being clear: what problem are they trying to solve?

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.
— Albert Einstein

Most teams spend at the most five minutes defining the problem and 55 minutes arguing about a few solutions. That's what it looks like in this meeting. What if instead there was a process that took just 90 minutes which helped teams choose which problem they should be solving? A practical process to save hours of arguments and ensure everyone on the team was solving the same problem.

Back in 2003 we developed this practical process that in just one-day will give you Rapid Results from Teams.

In one-day with your team, starting at 9am, you decide which of many problems to solve, you define your problem quickly, then generate at least 30 ideas to solve your problem. Then before 5pm, you have agreed the three top actions to solve your problem fast.

Impossible? No. This proven method has been used by teams in professional services, manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies to get better results faster.

Here are some quick tips to make your meetings better:

  1. Always list at least three different problems you could solve.
  2. Choose to solve the problem that will give you the best results and the fastest.
  3. Insist your team always lists at least 10 ideas on a whiteboard.
  4. Discuss which idea solves the problem fastest and which idea gives the best results.
  5. Pick three actions and agree to get moving on these actions tomorrow.