Problem-Solving Success Tip: Earn the Right

Jeanne Sawyer

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Earn the Right

I used to work for guy who would come into my office at the end of the day and ask, “Was today a good day?" I quickly learned that it wasn’t idle chat and he didn’t particularly care whether the answer was “yes" or “no" (though, of course, he preferred “yes"). What he really wanted to know was that I had evidence to support whatever I said, and that I would use that evidence to make tomorrow better.

I call this concept earning the right. If you want to claim a problem is solved, you earn the right to say so by having data to back up your claim. You do this by establishing measurable success criteria at the beginning of the problem-solving effort and using those metrics to prove the problem is solved.

Similarly, if you need to ask for resources to implement a solution to a problem, you must be able to demonstrate what you need and why. In other words, you must earn the right to ask for resources by developing a solid business case based on data.

Scheduling presents similar challenges. Senior mangers always want to know when the problem will be fixed. Make sure you’ve earned the right to establish whatever end-date you’re going to pick by doing some careful planning. Then, when management pushes you for an earlier date, you’ll have the evidence to push back-or to demonstrate what it will take to make a more aggressive schedule.

Was today a good day?

Jeanne Sawyer is an author, consultant, trainer and coach who helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Now also an ebook, find out about it and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: .


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