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09 February 2015 Posted by 


Tips for converting team members to problem solvers

By Craig Hingston
President Cumberland Business Chamber

IMAGINE having a business in which every team member is pro-actively facing challenges and finding positive solutions.

Not waiting around for management to fix them. It may sound unrealistic but this is the end goal for Andrew Church, the founder of the Kreative Kaizen private training academy.

Andrew is the author of How To Solve Your Problems Without A Superhero and at a recent Manufacturing Forum hosted by the Cumberland Business Chamber, which doubled as his book launch, he explained how this can be achieved.

The book introduces two characters: Mere Mortal (you and I) and Super Hero AAA with his powers from another planet and brightly coloured lycra.

Mere Mortal is a hard worker. He is the last to leave the office. He dreams of becoming a SH one day because in his business he has to solve all of the issues. The buck stops with him.

Meanwhile Super Hero AAA saves the day and wins the accolades. However, when you look closer you see that he only arrives in the nick of time, he doesn’t turn up early enough to prevent the crisis. This is because he can’t be everywhere at the same time. SH is time poor.

MM already has the tools and people but doesn’t know how to understand, identify and respond to problems. Many people react when something goes wrong. Few look ahead.
He needs a game plan. A systematic approach not band aid treatment.

Problems affect businesses of all sizes. Even the smallest issue can unsettle staff and customers and affect morale.

There are three types of problems: strategic, operational and administrative. Strategic = long term, wide ranging and of significant importance. Operational = short/medium term, requiring management to check procedures and policies. Administrative = short term requiring simple answers.

Problems are not the enemy, they can be intimidating and stressful but the real enemy is the unwillingness to make changes to deal with them. Problems can be a catalyst to propel us to success. It is a matter of recognising opportunities in the midst of confusion or hardship.

Knowing how to solve problems begins with understanding your default position. Are you reactionary or proactive? A natural planner or spontaneous? MM is proactive. SH is  reactionary.

A bridge collapses and hundreds of lives are affected. In zooms SH to fix it. It collapses again. He flies back. It falls down a third time. He gets there just in time then flies off.

Contrast this to MM who talks to the council engineering department about their maintenance program, does comprehensive analysis, discovers the design fault and introduces a systematic approach fix it. SH almost has Attention Deficit Disorder.

Once he has prevented lives from being lost he is gone but MM stayed around and had the patience to seek out a proper ‘fix’. Sure, he won’t end up on the cover of tomorrow’s newspapers but his is the right action to take.

Andrew’s book states that problem solving is much more than firefighting or crisis management. MM has to be proactive and identify problems before they occur. Go in search of information. Has it happened before? When? How often? How was it tackled (if at all)? Go beyond fixing things.

Think deeper. How far does the problem go? Sometimes people resolve secondary problems and miss the primary problem. Identify the root cause. There is practical 4 step approach:
1.    Identify the problem.
2.    Categorise.  
3.    Identify.  
4.    Implement solutions and evaluate progress. This requires IER…implementing, evaluating and refining.

Creativity requires boldness. Einstein said if at first the idea is not absurd then there is no hope for it. Allow staff to come up with their own rules. Encourage them that failures are learning experiences rather than a cost to the company. Create a culture of innovation. Don't jump to conclusions on how best to solve problems. Give yourself time to come up with new solutions.

Having come up with your preferred problem solving solution the idea is not to give it over to one person. Leading researchers say that multi-tasking is a thing of the past.

People’s minds work more efficiently when they are focused on one task at a time. Working memory can become fragile when it is bombarded with a lot of information.

Andrew completes his book with a final to do list:

-    Develop convergent skills, start with small step.
-    Assess your performance every few weeks.
-    Keep learning something new.
-    Engage in what if thinking.
-    Speculate about possibilities.
-    Learn how to gauge time, before beginning a project estimate how long it will take
-    Keep the clean work place (if you can find a file in under 10 seconds you are well organised).
-    Associate with creative people.
-    Have a room set aside for problem analysis, leave your notes on the whiteboard.
-    Share the recognition and celebrate your wins.

If you would like more information about problem solving go to


Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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Mail: PO Box 186, Kurrajong NSW 2758
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