Collaborative Problem-Solving

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Collaborative Problem-Solving

I’m often asked, “how can we effectively address problems before they become operational issues?” And, my answer is simple… take a collaborative approach. I recently read an article about Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon which detailed the steps they take to address an issue and implement an innovative solution. I found their methodology to be something very similar to what I have used within my organization for years, with amazing results. It works like this.

  1. Identify the issue. Many times in business, we overlook the small issues, chalking them up to human error, or the “unavoidable”. However, it is these small problems that, as your company grows, will quickly snowball into larger, more expensive issues later. So, the first step to being proactive in your problem-solving approach is to not ignore these small issues. Instead, make a list of them and track how often they occur. If they are happening more than once a quarter, then look into it deeper.
  2. Figure out the root cause of each issue. At Amazon, they create strategic teams that have members from each of their different departments. Not only does this enable you to get a much clearer company-wide view of how an issue can spread, but it also gives you the ability to brainstorm a wide variety of solutions and equips you to better understand the root cause of an issue. Investing the time to delve deeper into an issue to pinpoint why it is occurring can be an effective way to start to pull back the layers to expose larger-scale problems that may be going unaddressed. Keep in mind, there may be more than one root cause to an issue, but if you do your due diligence, you will be able to identify everything involved.
  3. Brainstorm solutions. The key for this step to work is to not disregard any possible option. Allow your teams to generate ideas first and then evaluate them after. You do not want to stymie the creative process by over-criticizing each potential solution. It is this open-ended brainstorming process that led Amazon to consider (and start working toward) making drone-delivery an option for faster delivery services. Be sure the solutions you settle on are directly related to addressing the root cause of the problem. In addition, create milestones and metrics to help you implement solutions and monitor their effectiveness in resolving the issues.

So, this week, focus on the small (low-hanging) issues that continue to persist. Even if they are easily resolved, fix them now, before they grow out of control. Often addressing smaller issues may bring larger issues to light. This way you are able to efficiently improve your operations and have your business primed for growth.

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