By David Kossoff, Kepner-Tregoe

Problem-solving in modern organizations is a team sport.  Success as a team comes from cooperation (sharing insights and information), collaboration (developing shared ideas), decisiveness and coordinated action.  Communications is the glue that binds the team together and enables them to work as a unit.  Nowhere in your company is this more critical than the problem-solving process. When the stakes are high is when peak-performance is needed most.  You will find that delivering great communication in these areas will pay you and your organization dividends.

· Leveraging expertise – Each member of your team brings unique expertise, knowledge and perspectives that can aid in the problem-solving process.  Communication is critical, not only to ensure that everyone’s perspectives are captured, but to demonstrate that everyone’s contributions are appreciated and encourage further participation in the problem-solving process.

· Assessing impacts and downstream implications – Everyone on the team has a unique point of view on the problem and how it fits into the bigger picture of the organization.  Only through communication can the diverse points-of-view be brought together into an accurate and comprehensive perspective of the problem and its impacts on operations and downstream activities.

· Making decisions that consider the whole system – Without effective communication, there will be a tendency to make problem-solving decisions that only address immediate symptoms and/or the parts of the system that are directly associated to the issue at hand.  By including a broader stakeholder audience in problem communications, decision makers are able to solicit input on the broader impacts to the organization and select actions that benefit the whole system.

· Executing as a unit– Solving complex business and operations problems often involves a lot of moving pieces to achieve a desirable outcome.  Coordinating the activities of the individuals on the team to ensure efficient use of resources and avoid conflicts or duplication can be a challenge.  Effective intra-team communication is essential to ensure that everyone on the team knows what is going on and the role they need to play.

· Making impacts stick (real change begins with awareness) – Problem-solving teams work really hard to analyze situations, develop alternatives, make decisions and institute corrective actions to resolve the issue at hand.  There is a lot of knowledge gained through this process that can help the organization avoid the situation recurring in the future and/or expedite resolution if the situation does happen again.  Organizational communication and building awareness can help make the benefits from problem-solving stick.

· Managing stakeholder expectations – Stakeholder confidence in your problem-solving abilities are based more on what you communicate than what you actually do.  Ensuring stakeholder communications are deliberate, timely and thoughtful can play a big part in reducing the level of external pressure put on the problem-solving team.  To do this, stakeholder communication needs to be a standard part of the problem-solving process and not approached as an ad-hoc activity.

Through effective communication and working as a team, even the most difficult problems can be resolved.  Kepner-Tregoe has been working with companies for close to 60 years to solve some of the most difficult problems imaginable.  Their experts understand the importance of teamwork and communication in the problem-solving process and can help your team up-level your communications capabilities.

()