Can Problem-Solving really Build Teams?

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
— Sun Tzu
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What is a problem-solving team?

A group of individuals assembled to work on a project to resolve issues that have already arisen or to deal effectively with issues as they arise. In business, a problem-solving team will typically be formed for a limited time frame incorporating staff from different organisational levels with different skills.

It is one thing to have a problem to solve; it is another to use this as a means of improving and strengthening your business, to make it your competitive advantage. When you have a problem to solve and need to establish a project team, it's an opportunity to develop internal relationships and remove inter-departmental barriers.

When forming a project team to solve a problem pick people who have an interest in the problem, are impacted by the problem, will make time to resolve it and have the power to implement a new solution. Ensure everyone on the team understands the purpose is finding a solution that is in the best interests of the organisation, not just their department.

Before you have your first problem-solving meeting, make sure that everyone has the background information needed to come to the meeting already armed with questions and ideas to find a solution. If you know of any friction between members of the team (interpersonal or interdepartmental) - determine if it is essential to include both parties or if you should consider a different individual for one role. If it is necessary to include members with existing conflict, make sure that you have a plan in place to manage this as the project proceeds. However, some conflict and argument will be necessary during the project to ensure that the team chooses the optimal solution and not the solution that causes the least waves. You don't just want the same old solutions.

Embrace the cultural diversity that different people will bring to the problem-solving process. Having a process will ensure that you follow a direction and don't get knocked off course, but flexibility is needed so everyone gets an opportunity to bring their background knowledge and personal expertise to the project. Your team leader must take the role of facilitator to ensure progress and always keep the team focused on the end goal.

Once the problem-solving ideas have been collected and the team chooses a solution, create an action plan with clearly defined responsibilities and dates. It is essential that the team leader follows up on this stage of the plan as this is where most difficulties will occur, as team members other day-to-day duties can interfere with progress. Keeping the team motivated to make progress and facilitating the time they need to complete their tasks is an important role.

Having said that, motivating the team is an important role, one important benefit of a good problem-solving process is buy-in. With a good process all members of the team buy-in to the agreed solution. So, they are motivated to complete the tasks and typically need far less follow-up.

Next time you have a problem that needs rapid results - try using this as a team building experience to strengthen your organisation and provide you with a competitive advantage. For more information download this ebook: Team Building for Rapid Results: Improve Relationships & Remove Barriers.