We are in the midst of a four-part series on accountability. This week, we look at the third step, following the principles from “The Oz Principle“, by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman. I’ve covered the first two steps, “See It” and “Own It“. “Solve it” should seem easy once you’ve made it this far. But there are many distractions and flying monkeys to knock you off your golden path to a solution.
So how do we promote a culture where team members will take this step and solve the problem. Shouldn’t solving it come naturally? Sometimes it does, but often we find it stalled out due to a variety of factors, such as incompetence or corporate bureaucracy.
What does it mean to “Solve It”?
Let’s first identify what it is not. It does not mean that you, individually, have to come up with the solution all on your own. You do not have to write the code, calculate the answer, engineer the switch or jump over tall buildings to make it happen. It simply means that you lead the effort to find the solution.
Furthermore, to “solve it” means that an acceptable resolution has been found for the issue. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect or that everyone is happy, for that matter. It means that you have devised a solution to the problem that allows your company or organization to proceed to the next step.
An Example From the IT World
Years ago I was with a Fortune 500 organization that had deployed a large software platform. This was a huge project comprised of many teams, and cost the company nearly 9 figures to implement. After the implementation was complete, there was the typical noise and chatter about issues, but nothing catastrophic. After a month or so, lives settled in and everyone felt it was good to go. But then the chatter got louder. There were significant performance problems. The teams spent the next several weeks trying to solve the problem.
Out of the blue, my boss shows up at my office. It seems I was tasked to lead the charge to solve the performance problems. Even though I had very little involvement with the implementation, I had a reputation of being able to look at problems from a fresh perspective and just get them done. To “solve it”, in other words.
So I asked for a specific team, the best and brightest from every part of the organization. I also asked for access to certain key users that I knew were capable and reliable. Further, I wanted a dedicated room for the team away from our current desks, so we could work uninterrupted. This “war room” was our place to bounce ideas, ask questions, try out solutions and come up with the elusive answer. All of my requests were granted, and we solved the problem in just a matter of weeks!! We were proud to be part of the team that made this solution work as desired and was recognized by our leadership team for our contribution to the project.
Tips For Building a “Solve It Culture”
This example from my past gives us a few great ideas for building a culture that promotes and rewards a “solve it culture”.
When “asked” to lead this project, I asked if I could have whatever I needed. I was told that I could, so I asked for specific people that I knew would contribute to the overall success. Further, leadership relieved these folks from their primary responsibilities so they could focus on solving the problem at hand. This commitment by our department’s leadership was significant because it told everyone that this was important and needed our undivided attention.
By giving us a dedicated place to work and removing other work responsibilities, we were able to remove distractions and allow us to truly dig deep. This kept the team in the room, on task, for the duration. While there were momentary distractions, we kept on task and explored every possible scenario. We came up with some creative solutions as well. Most of these simply ruled out solutions, but they moved us closer to our eventual answer.
The key to our solution was to keep asking questions until we got to the right one. We started with the obvious (was it a network issue, was it the database, was the server scaled right….). Obvious questions get you obvious answers. But it starts the juices flowing. We kept digging in deeper and deeper. We also chased several red herrings. Not unusual for a problem like this. But it was those questions that eventually led to a solution.
The final solution first appeared to be another red herring. We almost didn’t even explore it, but I am so glad we did. Once we discovered what the problem was, we were able to put together an easy solution to the problem. Furthermore, the solution came at very little cost to the organization! Talk about a win-win!!
And if you truly want to promote an ongoing culture of solving problems, recognize and reward those who effectively step up to the plate ansd solve problems. By doing this, you remove the stigma and encourage others to take risks.
But what if it’s not successful? Team members who step up, but are unable to solve the problem, should still be encouraged. They may not receive all the accolades of the team that solved the problem. But don’t punish a team that tries and comes up short. As long as they were committed and working toward a solution, they should be encouraged.
Don’t Skip the First Two
I often see this in action-oriented individuals. They want to skip straight to solving the problem. In fact, I was with a client last week that wanted to do that very thing. But you first need to step back and see the problem for what it truly is. Owning the problem means recognizing and owning the reality of the situation. If you try to solve a problem before doing these steps, you may end up with a solution that doesn’t fit!
Start Working On Building Accountability Today!
Are you ready to solve this in your organization? I work with companies that struggle with accountability. By working on these principles, we can build a culture of accountability that allows organizations to See It, Own It, and Solve it…. so what’s next? The fourth step comes next week.
If interested in learning more, call or text me at 502-724-0430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.