I chair several board and team meetings each month. There’s always a problem or an issue that needs sorting out.
What usually happens is that you get a random selection of possible or partial solutions followed by an attempt to identify who is to blame for the problem followed by a weird time and space continuum that no-one quite knows how to fill. Should we all talk a lot and do some kind of brainstorming activity or should we just hope that the most dominant or cleverest person in the room can come up with the so-called solution?
We now apply my simple Problem-Solving Template because it works so very often.
In essence, you write the following headings on a piece of flipchart paper or a Word document and infill under the headings.
The headings are:
What are the symptoms?
What is the problem?
What are the causes?
What are the solutions –
Often the tough part is the actual identification of the problem and the related symptoms. Being able to explicitly label the problem makes it possible to start thinking about the best solutions.
Example – A consistent fall in sales against budget.
The symptoms are many and varied and some are direct consequences, some are indirect and some are unrelated to the real problem: wrong budget, better competition, poor internal controls, Brexit, customer loyalty, brand values, increasing costs, dishonest staff. In this instance, the real problem is a consistent fall in sales compared with the previous two years. Now we have identified the real problem we can identify the specific causes and then the specific solutions.
This little template can create a blame-free approach to problem-solving in your organisation.