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How do you priorotise the right problems to solve?


Over the years as a manager in varying companies,and as a consultant being called in to assist in problem solving,most entities are generally following an outdated methodology.

It goes like this. Managers are made responsible for meeting monthly and divisionally to identify and communicate issues and to priorotise those by high, medium and low risk.

Usually the measure most favoured is the financial bottom line. Rewards and pats on the back for increases in income and reductions in resource use. The low risk issues, were often forgotten while the complex and larger issues dominated resource allocation and conversations.

So, lets reflect on this. The people who are closest to operational concerns are responsible for informing the manager of resources. Yes? This is the same manager who is relied on for promotions, pay rises and positive feedback is the person who is expected to know what the actual emerging risks are.

You see where I'm going here.

It's rare that directs will give you the whole story about minimal issues as they often feel these can be managed and want to be seen as highly competent . Especially around reporting time. Often, anyone providing a lone voice of condesention around a decision made by managers is slowly deemed "problematic" or a "glass half full" sort of person. Not a team player and eventually ignored or eased out of the company by choice or situation.

But what if we turned the structure of problem solving on its head? What if owning mistakes gained recognition,support and became a whole of organisation challenge? Where even the receptionist could offer solutions. But what culture would need to exist?

Sounds like hearding cats?

First we need to make sure that we have highly skilled, self-motivated staff. That the culture is problem focussed and trusting behaviours are recognised and rewarded.

No one ever achieved excellence without making mistakes and yet so many companies fail because they get carried away with their social media profile of "being the best" and centres of excellence get mistaken as "centres of perfect solutions." In short they get lazy and rely on position rather than practices and values maintainence to resolve issues.

What guides everyones practices? To regain the origins of the small group solution brokers that became a many headed product or service provider in search of a fortune 500 status? Values. Not mission statements but clearly understood , agreed and monitored values.

Participants in this new order would need to be truly brave. Brave enough to share decision making, Brave enough to hear difficult feedback,Brave enough to handover control for solution broking and making.Being able to put aside personal desire for retribution, blame and blanking the feedback we don't agree with or like. Brave enough to ensure that all decisions align to values. And even braver to reject work or solutions that don't align with the agreed values.

The usual conflicts of resources and ideas will arise. But recognising and seeing conflict as an opportunity for change and having a system for providing options that aren't obligatory and come from peers is a great start to failing fast and recovering early.

And that can be expensive. Yes we all need to budget honestly adding 1/3. An up front failure fund that recognises that mistakes will happen. Again, encourage failing fast and recovering early.

Yes we all have budgets to work within but timelines are agreed. I have found that by acknowledging that mistakes will happen and buffer time is needed that by adding 1/3 to the expected delivery time I avoid the inevitable project creep, ( that everyone pretends doesn't exist) and actually meet expectations. How personelle are engaged is fundamental. You notice i say engaged not hired?

Highly skilled and highly self motivated people want to produce meaningful quality work. They are everywhere you go to PD and networking groups.

So, seek out people with potential and a desire to achieve with the ability to be honest and open to change. Make note of them for when you might need them. Over and over I see HR putting job ads out and going through the long and laborious process of selection criteria, testing and interviews of those who say they are the best. This is wasting your time and often leads to settling for the best that's out there at the time. Busy people will make time for the right project and work environment.

And if you are working in a place that opposes your values start your exit strategy . Start networking. And if you want a plan come see me so we can get some real success going. Good people are in demand and quality attracts quality and it never goes out of style.

And, if you want more on building creativity and better cultures I highly recommend reading or listening to Ed Catmulls' book Creativity . Ed has overseen the rise and rise of Pixar. Brene Browns' programs that I will be facilitating with Amanda Reynolds later in the year focus on building the capacity of individuals and entities to be vulnerable , understand criticism, build trust and re-write the story are also worth a look. Youtube will provide you with hours of distraction .

The idea of a non-authoritarian brains trust to inform your organisations problems/challenges is a great one. So let me know if you need assistance to set these up to work effectively or you just need to challenge your leadership to better understand REAL bravery and leadership.

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#projectmanagement #Pixar #EdCatmull #change #sustainability