Sunday, April 29, 2018

My New Book Part 3

My new book Part 3

In my last post, I introduced my Problem-Solving Road Map and then listed ten behaviors and personality traits that I believe are the basic genetic material shared and utilized by effective problem solvers.  The ten behaviors I listed were:

1.         Being Objective
2.         Being Analytical
3.         Being Creative
4.         Having Dedication, Commitment and Perseverance
5.         Being Curious
6.         Having Courage
7.         Having A Sense of Adventure
8.         Being Enthusiastic
9.         Being Patient
10.       Being Vigilant

In today’s post I will describe each of these behaviors in more detail.  It’s important to understand that these behaviors or traits do not have to exist in a single person, but rather the team must exhibit them.  Much of what I am posting is taken from my new book [1] The Problem-Solving, Problem-Prevention, and Decision-Making Guide - Organized and Systematic Roadmaps for Managers.

The DNA of Problem Solvers (con’t)
A problem solver must always be impartial and objective and not have preconceived notions, ideas or biases on what is causing the problem.  Each problem has its own set of conditions or circumstances and most of the time the answer lies in the data and information surrounding these conditions.  Without objectivity, crucial observations might be ignored or missed.  I have witnessed so many times individuals and teams jumping to causes and solutions before even understanding the problem.  Keeping an open mind throughout the process is critical.

A good problem solver must be analytical and systematic in their approach to problems.  One of the keys to solving problems is the art of asking the right questions in a methodical fashion.  As we investigate problems, it is crucial to use a logical approach as we move through the maze of unknown facts and forever present opinions of others.  Asking questions, or should I say the right questions, is imperative if we are to uncover the facts relative to the problem.  Closely related to this is the need for analysis.  Once the information and data surrounding the problem is collected, it must be analyzed in a systematic way.  A good problem solver knows and understands which tools and techniques are available, how to use them, and when to utilize each one.

Solving problems requires imagination, creativity and ingenuity.  Solving problems sometimes requires abstract thinking and necessitates imaginative and inventive actions.  Once you have determined the true root cause (or causes) of the problem, it’s time to be innovative and let your creative juices flow as you develop effective solutions.  The solution to your problem will demand ingenuity and resourcefulness, so you must be inventive.

Solving problems requires dedication, perseverance, and commitment because the answers are sometimes obscure or concealed and, therefore, not always obvious.  One must be determined to find the root cause and committed to using a systematic approach.  A good problem solver doesn’t vacillate as the problem-solving journey unfolds, they stay the course.

A good problem solver has curiosity.  When one is curious, they are interested in understanding why things happen and will probe below the surface of the problem looking for things that may not be obvious or evident above the surface.  Solutions to problems all begin out of curiosity and desire to determine and understand what happened and then understand why.  Until you understand why the problem has emerged, your chances of solving it are pretty much nil. 

It takes courage, daring, and “guts” to be a good problem solver.  Since there is usually always a negative aura or atmosphere surrounding problems, people that are closest to and responsible for the area with the problem, sometimes feel threatened.  Because they are feeling vulnerable and exposed, they generally don’t like to be questioned, but you must have the courage and fortitude to push forward and seek answers.  When you ask someone questions about the problem in their area of responsibility, many time the instinctive reaction is to take a defensive posture.  You are typically perceived as prying and impugning their character.   Of course, this isn’t really the case and if you ask the questions in a positive and non-threatening way, you can ease some of this perception.

Solving problems is a journey and an exploration into what happened, so having a sense of adventure is fundamental to reaching your destination.  I have often wondered how the early explorers, like Columbus or Lewis and Clark, must have felt as they sailed into unknown and uncharted waters or passed through unfamiliar and strange countryside, never knowing what they were going to encounter or be confronted with or even if they would be successful.  The one thing Toyota does better than any company I have ever seen is their mandate and directive to their employees to go visit the source of the problem, so they can see firsthand what is happening.

A good problem solver must demonstrate enthusiasm during the problem-solving journey.  There must be a certain zest, zeal and passion that becomes contagious and infectious to the rest of the team.  By demonstrating and communicating enthusiasm to the team, you are inadvertently motivating and inspiring your team members.  There will be times when the situation may appear hopeless to the team, but your positive outlook and enthusiasm will guide you and your team through the process.

Finding root causes and developing solutions to problems are not always clear-cut, straightforward, or uncomplicated, so a good problem solver must demonstrate patience, persistence, and staying power.  You will at times, be pressured to move faster than you would like to or need to, so you must be compelled to stay the course.  Part of learning to be a good problem solver is learning how to become disciplined and regimented.  If you will take your time and systematically work through problems, your success rate will improve dramatically.  Remember, patience truly is a virtue.

Finally, a good problem solver should be vigilant and always expect the unexpected.  Just when you think you may have exposed the root cause of a problem, or have discovered the causal pathway of the problem, new information or something unanticipated may come out of the blue and catch you off guard if you aren’t alert to this possibility.  So be cautious and attentive that DNA of problems.

As we go through my postings, if you have any questions for me, send me an email to
Bob Sproull

[1] Bob Sproull, The Problem-Solving, Problem-Prevention, and Decision-Making Guide - Organized and Systematic Roadmaps for Managers, CRC Press, 2018 by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC 

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