Adopting problem-solving methodology to drive sustained, high-quality business results

Lewis Baloian

To launch a successful mission to Mars, thousands of challenges will need to be overcome. For starters, the rocket will need to be capable of making the fifty-five million kilometer journey and the life support system will need to keep humans alive in space longer than ever before. Without a process to understand and address the myriad individual obstacles necessary to make these goals a possibility, the program would fail. Your business, perhaps on a smaller scale, also has hundreds of individual challenges and opportunities that need to be tackled in order to achieve your end goals. These goals can range from developing new products, to penetrating new markets, to reducing defects at the department level. While not on the same scale or complexity as a mission to Mars, it is equally beneficial to have processes in place that effectively address obstacles and opportunities to help achieve your business goals.

Many successful companies adopt a problem-solving methodology to address this need. Stephen Covey, a prominent author, businessman, and educator said: “The major problem we face is not any particular problem. It is the process we use to solve problems.” Any company can put their best people together to solve one problem, but a week later you may have ten more in its place. By utilizing a shared process, you build a foundation that can be sustained and improved upon.

There are several methodologies to choose from, so what should you look for in a problem-solving process? Below are three elements our practice believes are necessary to create a great process.

A great process:

  • Focuses significant time understanding the “Current State.” It is important to align everyone to the facts of a situation in order to arrive at the best possible solution. Too often, the solution is hiding in the details of how things are done today.
  • Is accessible to everyone. Complex and overly-technical processes generally scare people and drive reliance on a select few individuals. Easy-to-use processes empower people to solve problems within their area of work.
  • Guides rather than impedes the team. Every team and opportunity have nuances that require deviations to a cookie-cutter approach. A sophisticated process may look great on the surface but can be difficult to manage when things don’t quite fit.

Whether aiming for the farthest reaches of space or improving sales results, using a process can better equip your teams to effectively solve problems. In future articles we will dive into specific aspects of the process utilized by Haffey & Co. — a process which has been successfully implemented in the boardroom, on the manufacturing floor, and out in the field with sales representatives.