Solving team problems is a key skill for you as a manager to develop. They will be looking to you for guidance when problems occur, following your example and following your direction, especially if there are areas that they have no control over.
How can you make sure that you give yourself the best chance of dealing with team problems, so they all buy-in to the solution in the end? Here are some tips:
Start with a solid problem statement:
A team can’t fix a problem that it hasn’t identified well. Coming up with an accurate problem statement is the first step in solving any problem and achieving a meaningful goal. In fact, an accurate problem statement will often suggest a possible solution.
Guidelines for a good problem statement:
• State the problem narrowly enough so the team can handle it
• Make it a statement, not a question
• Be detailed, not too general
• Avoid apportioning blame or cause
• Use measurable qualities or quantities when you can
Use these guidelines next time your team discuss a problem. Make sure they don’t end up too wooly or discriminating.
Take a look at these problem statements and see if you can determine what’s wrong with them. Answers later in the blog:
1) The total number of errors is 0.75 per 1000
2) We don’t have enough time for all the meetings we need to hold
3) We would get better productivity if we had air conditioning
4) We get customer complaints about the phones not being answered between 1 and 2pm
Make sure you differentiate between team goals and individual goals:
The group should decide on a common objective (and agree it) and action steps should then be set showing who will do what and by when.
Make sure team members don’t put their own concerns too much ahead of the team objectives.
All smart players in a team see the link between the success of the team and their individual success.
Make sure the team knows the purpose of dealing with the problem.
Remember that teams develop direction and commitment by working toward a common purpose. The purpose is shaped in response to a demand or opportunity put in their path. Top teams spend time exploring, shaping and agreeing on a purpose that belongs to them as a team and individually. This makes the day’s work clear in the eyes of every team member.
And the answers to those problem statements?
1) A pretty good statement, but exactly what are the errors and over what time period?
2) Too general and not measurable. A better statement would be “ In March, 5 team meetings were cancelled because of lack of room availability”
3) This includes a solution in the statement. It may not be the only solution. A better phrase may be “productivity decreased by 10% last summer in the CKD department”
4) This is pretty good, but doesn’t specify how many customers and how many calls. A better one would be ”During March, three of our top customers complained that they were unable to get through to IT on 7 occasions between 1 and 2 o’clock.
These tips should help you formulate the problems in a way that will gain solutions much quicker.
Originally published: 14 April, 2011
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