By Jeff Robinson, Kepner-Tregoe

As a business leader, do you feel like your employees are spending most of their time “fighting fires” and too much of your time is spend managing escalations?  If so, poor Problem Solving Skills may be hurting your business.  You hire talented and capable employees and pay them well.  But are you able to harness their full potential and translate that into business value.  If your employees are in fire-fighting mode, then you probably aren’t.

The impact of continuing with poor problem-solving skills can be devastating to your company.  Poor problem solving may show up in your organization as operational inefficiencies – material waste, inconsistent production performance and expanded manufacturing cycle time.  These are symptoms that are relatively easy to identify and measure the potential impact on your company’s profitability.  Poor problem solving skills may also manifest in product quality issues, defects, re-work and non-conformance to design specifications.  When the problems show up in your products, they become not just your company’s issue but an issue for your customers as well.  Sometimes poor problem solving skills show up in less tangible ways such as missed market opportunities, slow time to market, customer dis-satisfaction, regulatory compliance issues and declining employee morale.  These are the missed opportunities.

There is a difference between managing incidents (fire-fighting) and solving problems (prevention).  If your employees are spending their time and energy simply responding, then they are not able to spend that time analyzing and solving the underlying problems that can improve your business.   Not all problems are bad – it is the creative solution to problems in operations and/or the marketplace that have lead to every innovation and major development in human history.  The challenge is getting your team focused on solving the right problems that can help your business be successful – whether that is developing a new product, expanding to new markets, improving operational efficiency, or enhancing product quality.  A structured problem solving methodology and employees proficient in applying problem solving skills can help you break the cycle of reactiveness and focus on value creation. 

As a business leader, problem solving skills are important to you too. Escalations and responding to frequent incidents taking place in your organization are distractions that prevent you from focusing your time and attention on surveying the business environment to identify and chart out a course to future success.  The more time you spend focusing on the problems that were created yesterday, the less time you will have to lead the organization to where they need to be tomorrow.

For over 50 years, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping organizations and business leaders like you implement structured problem solving processes and skills to break the cycle of responsiveness and get your business humming so you can focus on the next big challenge or opportunity.  As your trusted problem solving advisors, KT’s unique approach to consulting and training, combined with our proven problem solving processes have helped companies across industries achieve their goals.

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