Embrace The Problem
There are so many problems to solve in the normal course of business that we just don’t need any more. However, if a problem is facing you straight in the face today, make the best use of it, and that starts with a mindset and belief that the beauty of a problem is that it can drive solution engagement like nothing else. The problem can literally give people hope.
Take for example, the problem facing one VP of Production. They oversee six Supervisors who in turn oversee multiple production lines in a seasonal production facility. Labor is in short supply because the limited pool of workers available to perform a very unique and skilled task. So when the summer season ramps up demand the organization can’t just hire qualified people leaving the existing workers to put in considerable overtime. These workers can’t go on summer vacations with their families. They can’t stop production for meetings on how to solve the problem because it just puts the entire machine even further behind. The workers feel they have no control, no solutions to the problem, nobody is listening because nobody cares, and it’s absolutely killing morale. Yet the organization is susceptible to huge risks if anybody quits. So we thought, how do we use the intensity of the problem to discover solutions without sucking up time. Here is where the beauty of the problem shined.
Leaders may find it normal for workers to exempt themselves from solutions because that is managements job. They get paid the big bucks go figure it out. The workers job is to produce and complain about it. However, the beauty of the problem is that developing the solution in the middle of the problem can draw people in like crazy. To do this, the VP pulled everybody together in an all staff meeting, yes right in the middle of summer season production. He let the team know that he recognizes their commitment and sacrifice, and the strain it is putting on their families. He shared with the production team the problems with seasonal demand and the lack of qualified help, and the problems it was causing. He was very clear on what big picture solution he was working towards to avoid the same problems next season with the ultimate goal of making everybody’s life better. In the break room, he posted four easel size poster sheets, each with a written problem at the top. He asked of the group to write solutions to the problems they were faced with in real time, and that motivated solution conversations that were absolutely amazing. Even the “not my job” people got engaged. People felt heard, they didn’t have to take time off the production line for “another stupid meeting”. People adopted hope, and it all started with a VP who had a mindset of embracing the problem.