There’s a saying in the military: “Don’t bring me a problem and expect me to solve it. If you are going to bring me a problem, bring a solution along with it.” It is logical for supervisors to want their employees to be able to solve problems and think for themselves, but not every employee has that ability – or the resources to do it.
They could consult a co-worker. Or find another supervisor to confide in. But what if neither is able to help solve the problem? What if few people in an organization feel empowered to solve problems and make decisions? The organization wouldn’t be very efficient, or agile.
The solution? Train, teach, and encourage a process for thinking through both opportunities and problems as they arise. And empower workers to resolve issues at their level.
More and more organizations are providing project management training for their employees. It’s not because they want them all to become project managers, but rather that they want to expose them to a formal problem solving framework and empower them to become better thinkers.
I facilitate these types of courses for those in non-supervisory roles. The feedback that I receive is that the most valuable part of our classes is developing a “project management” mindset, rather than being project managers themselves. We can teach thought processes and actions that employees can then use to feather out the important aspects of an issue, prioritize, consider options for resolution, and make a decision.
When most people think of project management, they think of managing a series of processes and resources (time, money, people) to achieve a stated end goal within a certain amount of time. The deeper objective is to communicate the purpose of the project upfront, through a charter, then produce a series of plans to handle all aspects of the project until the outcome is achieved. Learning project management is learning to think about and plan for different aspects that achieve the goal.
And that is problem solving in a nutshell.
Whether you’re facing a dissatisfied customer or a product malfunction or a delayed delivery, having a project management mindset allows you to:
- Break that issue down into relevant pieces
- Determine who the stakeholders are
- Identify risks
- Develop possible solutions along with possible outcomes
- Arrive at a final decision
Project management thinking is as much a life skill as a work skill. The process doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out one so it can be used to determine what is important, who needs to know, and what needs to be done when faced with any kind of problem.
Organizations can’t possibly create a decision tree for every issue that may arise.Instead they need to equip employees to be on-the-spot problem solvers, whether they are at the Department of Defense or working on Wall Street.So, when employees come to you with a problem, you can be confident they have thought it through, weighed the pros and cons, and have options that will effectively resolve the issue in a manner consistent with your values and aligned with your strategic goals.