Friday, May 1, 2009

In Depth Problem Solving

If a problem has no solution, it is not a problem but a fact of life like any other. If a problem has a solution, it is not a problem either. The problem is the strength of will and determination to adopt the solution.
–– Richard Needham

In depth problem solving is the opposite of using a “band aid” solution. It’s a “band aid” if you think, “This problem is back to haunt me again. Maybe if I try what I’ve done before, I’ll be lucky and it won’t come back.” (It will come back).

For an in depth solution you have to whole-heartedly commit to a “once and for all” commitment to its solution. If you don’t do this you have the illusion that the problem if growing by the second! You forget you’ve solved bigger problems in the past.

When I was a district manager for a large sales company, I would have one of my salespeople (or managers) pop in and say, “Danny, I’ve got a major problem I need to talk to you about.” This was really an invitation for me to solve it for them.

After listening to their description of the problem, my first question to them was “Is this the biggest problem you’ve ever had to solve? “ The response generally was, “Oh, no! It’s nothing compared to that one.” My response was, “Then why don’t you put the current one in that perspective?” This is when their eyes rolled back along with a backward head snap.

As they turned to walk away with determination, I gave the person a final shot of motivation by saying “a high performer like you ought to be able to handle a little problem like that.”

After doing that a few times, I’d have salespeople walk up to tell me about a current problem, stop in mid-description, pause and say, “I know––a high performer like me ought to be able to handle a little problem like that.” They’d laugh and walk away to shoot down another problem. My plan to keep “the monkey on their back” worked.

So to peel back the layers of a problem and solve it in depth ask the “Five Whys.”

1. Why am I having this problem?
“The customer is upset.”
2. Why is she upset?
“She doesn’t understand our new product.”
3. Why doesn’t she understand?
“She says I didn’t spend enough time explaining it to her.”
4. Why didn’t I?
“I had too many customers to see that day.”
5. Why?
“I’m not disciplined enough in my time planning.”

So hang in there! It’s always too soon to quit!


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