May 22, 2012
Do you hear employees complaining “Somebody should do something about this problem”? Well that “somebody” can by “everybody” in your organization. Employees are in the best place to solve problems because they are closest to where the work actually gets done. However, many employees either don’t feel empowered to initiate problem solving or have never been taught how to do it.
What your employees need are tools for problem solving they can use when the opportunity presents itself. If you teach people problem solving techniques they will feel empowered to take the initiative to not just complain about problems, but also offer solutions.
I like to teach a four step problem problem-solving process. 1) Identify the Problem, 2) Analyze the Problem, 3) Solve the Problem, and 4) Implement a Solution and include several possible tools to use during each step:
1. Identify a Problem: Utilize a Problem Solving Wheel to answer the Who, What, When, Where, How and Why questions about the problem to be able to articulate in detail, the specific situation.
2. Analyze a Problem: Now that you have identified the problem, it is time to analyze it thoroughly to determine the cause of the problem. A Fishbone Diagram is helpful in clearly identifying the relationship between a topic and all the possible factors that relate to it and may be causing the problem. Typical “fishbones” can include the 4M’s: Manpower, Method, Material and Machines. In Flowcharting, all the steps in the process are listed which may reveal which step may be the cause of the problem
3. Solve the Problem: After the problem has been analyzed, it is time to determine solutions. Brainstorming is a typical method but Storyboarding and Mind Mapping can also be used to generate possible solutions. In Storyboarding, every person writes their own ideas on small slips of paper rather than waiting for a facilitator to record responses. The ideas can then be grouped and moved more easily. Mind mapping is a very creative approach where branches are extended out of the central problem to record ideas which can be pictures as well as words which stimulates both sides of the brain.
4. Implement a Solution: You have chosen the best solution based on all the ideas generated in step 3, it is time to get it implemented. Start by creating a Checklist with every task needed to be accomplished, who will be the person responsible for each task, and the deadline for completion. A visual representation of your checklist can be created using a Gantt Chart.
When employees are empowered to not only identify problems but also to help solve them in a logical, business focused manner, they will become more engaged in the success of your organization.