Show up at the meeting and you’ll hear about the problem. Ask why the project is delayed and you’ll hear about the problem. Reporting problems seems to be the catch all action for buying more time. Is it the right action?
Most projects develop because someone has a problem.
We need to shorten the time from order to ship.
Customers are discovering damaged product because of the packaging.
Sales are down because we lack essential features.
Problems come in a lot of sizes, adding a problem to the problem is commonplace. Perhaps not because it is a stall or delay, but because the discovery brings us to additional aspects of the original problem.
When a problem is left unsolved it is usually because of difficulty with the solution. Easy problems are often fixed first. They are the low hanging fruit, the first problems grabbed and solved.
Reporting problems is really the easiest part.
What if you bring solutions to the meeting instead? Solutions begin to shake out the flow of work. They initiate a frame around what will be done first, and what should be approached next.
Instead of solutions though, people often bring drama.
This problem is huge.
This problem will stop production, cost a lot of money, and start to erode the customer base.
Often this type of problem reporting starts or ends with the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
It is another way of expressing, “I don’t know any solution but this is huge and I can’t wait to see your reaction.”
Most people bring problems to the meeting. They seldom bring many solutions.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the easy problems have already been solved and there is no need for addition discussion. There is seldom drama involved with an already solved problem. It’s over.
The second reason is that it feels easier to ask for help with an unframed problem. The presentation concept is, no one knows the magnitude and we need help.
A different way to report problems at the meeting is to do some of the investigative work first. Answer the questions that you know will be asked. Questions like how will this affect our customers, what is it costing us, and where should we start?
Reporting problems is the easiest part. Solving problems starts with a definition and a frame, otherwise it is mostly just drama and a delay.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.