10 Ways to Solve Real Problems
Solving the wrong problem doesn’t help.
Helping in the wrong way wastes time and resources. Worse yet, helping in the wrong way usually blows up in your face.
Even though it might be dangerous, help is essential to exponential success.
“The people who become superstars are simply those who receive the most help.” Ken Kragen
Wrong problem – wrong help:
Before you offer help, determine the real problem.
Solving symptoms masks real problems.
Do people nod when you give advice, but reject it later? Perhaps you’re solving the wrong problem.
Wrong assumptions result in wrong help.
You may be a quick thinking leader who helps in the wrong way because you falsely believe you understand the real problem.
10 questions to solve real problems:
Helping in the wrong way hurts.
- What are your assumptions? After listening to complaints or concerns, ask, “What problem are you solving?” Pretend you don’t know, even if you think you do.
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What does life look like if this problem is solved?
- What will you be doing when this problem goes away? (Focus on behaviors.)
- Who should we add to this conversation?
- What makes you think you have a problem?
- When did you first notice the problem? What were you doing?
- Ask, “Why,” five times. (Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Whys technique”)
- How might we find a new angle? Have dinner. Go for a walk. Play golf and talk about the situation.
- Where are you procrastinating? What are you putting off?
Maintain a solution orientation when digging into problems.
Circling a problem creates a back hole – solutions are a ray of light.
How might leaders determine the real problem?
Good morning Dan;
As I began to read todays blog the quote you shared from Ken Kragen caused me to have an “Ah hah’ moment. I have yet to find a person who is an expert at everything. There will times in each of our lives when we need the help and assistance of others. It has been my personal experience, as well as observations of others who seem to expedite rountine & urgent obligations with ease that I find one common denominater; “they can ALL BE RELIED ON to be there to help others.” Especially when it’s inconvenient & they’d rather be doing something else.
WARNING – Do not be mislead into thinking that people who run around like a chicken with their heads cut off also make good expediter’s, “they DON’T!” For the most part these folks lack focus for whats really important. They’re busyness is a front to convince others they are (git’n it done), when the fact is, they’re wasting time & energy doing things that really don’t matter.
My advice, look to the GO-2-People who always find a way to ‘get the job done’. But before everyone rolls up their sleeve’s and dive’s in, be certain everyone understands the goal, perceives your direction as you intend them to, so that all are working from the same sheet of music.
When people, teams, and organizations embrace infromation sharing by setting clear goals accompanied by presice direction, even the tough issues are tackled with ease.
“You’ve been firing on all cylinders lately my freind.”
Thanks SGT. I find the help topic comfortable when I’m giving help, but not so much when I’m receiving it. However, you are exactly right. Find some go-to people who aren’t necessarily flashy, when you need help.
Thanks for the good word.
Dan another great topic that I advise people on all the time. I see it along these lines for the people asking the questions:
1. When you are starting out in any organization you need to ask a lot of questions because you know nothing. Those who try to fake it at this level, fail and are gone!
2. As you move up to a manager level, you should still ask questions put you need to have considered alternative solutions or issues to discuss with your boss. Do not just ask for an answer but offer some thought out suggestions.
3. Even at a senior level when faced with a new situation, ask outside experts. These could be lawyers, bankers or even vendors, all of which can have a financial benefit in helping. Here I often say if you hear the same input Three times from any combined sources, this may be the right answer! ( I call this one The Rule of Three)
Brad James http://www.bradszootales.com
Thanks Brad. Your advice is so helpful. Keep learning. Keep asking questions. The importance of an outside voice can’t be over-estimated.
It is important to go and see. Go to the problem; watch the process; the whole process and see what happens and why; what are the impacts; quirks in the process. Then talk to the people who are impacted by the problem; ask questions- (humble Inquiry) like you said above don’t throw solutions at it; help empower and coach the team through their solutions.
Thanks Tammy. The closer you are the problem, the more likely you are to understand it. That means that front-line people are invaluable resources when it comes to understanding what’s really happening.
“Solving symptoms masks real problems” really resonated with me. How many hours are spent on fire drills in the workplace that didn’t have to occur. Getting to the real problem can require a lot of persistent patience. Asking enough whys and making sure you are getting to the right people to answer those whys, can take more time than you may think you have. However, if you don’t take the time, the fire drills just keep coming.
Thanks Mim. I’m with you. I see “fire drill” leaders all the time. So often they’re focus on image drives them to engage in behaviors that look good but don’t address deeper issues.
I like the part of asking “what problem are you trying to solve?” Even if you think you know. I have definitely assumed I knew what our team was going for and found out that we were not working for the same solution more than once. I like to get to the solution part, so I jump past the question too quickly. I have to remember to take a breath and start at the beginning. Good post 🙂
Great post Dan… I love your list of questions. I have one more that I like to challenge my assumptions “What else might be going on here?”. Thanks for giving such a structured and valuable resource list of questions to get unstuck.
Insightful solution to problem solving. It is better not to attempt solving problem half baked and have egg on your face. I adopt the technique of mulling over the problem posed thinking of ways it can be solved, seek advice from well wishers to bring new perspective to the issue before offering solution. There is no quick fix to anything.
Dan, I have sometimes found that the apparent issue is not as much of a challenge as the person working on it. Sometimes they don’t want the problem solved, they want to be listened to. They are more afraid of the solution than the problem. The real problem solver is the one who can figure out how to help that person get themselves “unstuck”.
Dan, as always thank you for another insightful post. I’d like to add question #11 to your list: Ask what they think they should do to fix the problem.
All too often leaders don’t take the time to challenge their team member’s ability to think creatively and critically. By asking for their thoughts and ideas, the leader can pose questions to ensure: 1) they understand the problem; and 2) where they need to support that team member with understanding their role’s parameters and future career pathing.
Asking team members what they think, supports the development of the relationship, provides a picture window into the thinking and processing patterns of the team member, and creates a learning platform for the leader and the team member.
Brilliant post. I will probably use this list to tackle my problems.