One of the primary functions of management and leadership is to solve organizational problems. An organizational problem occurs whenever the work practices and processes of those tasked with producing specific results do not actually produce those results. How can a manager solve such problems in an efficient and effective manner so that your organization remains on track for profitability and success?
The word “problem" literally means “to throw. " A baseball pitcher finds it impossible to hold onto the ball and pitch it at the same time. In other words, to solve a problem you must not hold onto it but rather “throw it" out for discussion to get other perspectives and ideas regarding its causes and consequences. When you do this, you begin to see the “bigger picture" because you can view the problem from a distance. More importantly, you “throw" the problem into your organization's collective pool of experience and wisdom whose depth will provide the most appropriate solution(s) in a timely manner.
Based on this understanding of “problem, " it becomes clear that a manager's job is not to solve problems all by him/herself; rather, it is to nurture the process of collective problem solving among the work force making sure that everyone is both a pitcher and a catcher. Everyone is trained and encouraged to throw problems they see into the collective talent pool; at the same time, everyone is equipped with a “glove" to catch the problems thrown by others in the organization.
It must be said that this is not as easy as it sounds. We've been trained over many years that talking with others about our problems is in bad taste. Nobody wants to hear about your problems, we've been told. Besides, everybody has enough of their own problems to be concerned about yours. And so we keep it to ourselves and think that we must solve it ourselves without bothering anyone else. Author Paul Strauss says: “Collaboration is the least of our skills. We don't like to share. Society stresses individual competition so working together is unnatural to us. " When everyone in an organization keeps problems to themselves the problems soon take on a life of their own and grow much bigger and have a greater negative impact than they actually should warrant.
Learn how to play “pitch and catch" with problems in your organization and you'll soon see a big difference in the number of problems you're faced with. The number will go down and you'll find that you actually enjoy your work more.
Point #1: A problem shared is a burden divided. This helps the organization move toward the most appropriate solution in the least amount of time.
How do you create an organizational culture in which problems are willingly thrown and caught? The easiest and most cost-effective method for creating such a culture is for management to continually encourage problem sharing and solving behavior. You've heard it said that everything in an organization “starts at the top, " or “rolls downhill. " Presuming that leadership is positioned at the top of the organizational chart, this is true. However, in an organization that is defined by a structure the foundation of which is formed by its leadership, everything grows from the “bottom up. " Just as crops are nurtured by proper nutrients in the soil and adequate amounts of sun and moisture, so, too, organizational cultures are nurtured by proper sources of growth from the soil of management leadership. In both cases, if the necessary ingredients for growth are not present in a sustained and sufficient manner, the result will be a meager harvest - and eventual death.
One of the proper sources for optimal organizational growth is continual management/ownership encouragement of collective problem sharing and solving behaviors throughout the workforce. This is an essential ingredient for success. If you're having difficulties dealing with problems in your business, ask yourself: “Am I regularly encouraging my employees to play “pitch and catch" with the problems we seem to always be having?" If your answer is “No, " then you'll know what to do next: at your next meeting with employees, raise the issue of problem solving and tell them you'd like for them to play more at work - play more “pitch and catch" with the problems they see in the organization. But you have to be part of the team, too. Owners and managers are not the referees in this game of problem solving: they are player/coaches. Everybody throws and everybody catches - those are the rules of the game.
Point #2: A problem unshared is a problem unsolved; a problem unsolved is a growing problem. This is not the kind of “growth" you want in your organization. Grow joy instead.
When you find a collective solution, then it's time to share the joy. To paraphrase the words of Jesus in the New Testament: “There is more joy in the organization at the solving of a single problem than over the multitude of things that go right everyday. " When the employees of an organization know what the problem is because of playing “pitch and catch, " they have a mutual interest in solving it and in celebrating the solution. Don't forget to celebrate the team victory over the problem and to keep track of the successes the solution produces over a period of time. Keeping the players informed as to on-going successes keeps them emotionally rewarded for having made the best choice and done the “right" thing; it also provides paced motivation for employees to continue to play “pitch and catch:" they can see that this sort of “play" really works.
Point #3: A problem solved is a joy multiplied. Anytime you can foster joy in your organization, you will prosper in terms of both employee and customer loyalty. An excellent way to create and sustain joy is by solving a problem together and tracking the results of the solution.
The organization that plays this game of “pitch and catch" together stays and grows together!
Ken Wallace, M. Div. , CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design® program.
Tel:(800)235-5690 Claim your free eBook, “How to Do Better Than Your Best in Anything You Do" by visiting the Better Than Your Best website.