By Debra Evans, Kepner-Tregoe

Imagine an environment where every one of your employees comes to work in the morning focused not just on doing their job but making their job better?  What if this happened every day for a week… or a month?  Consider the impacts this could have to the quality of products and services you deliver to customers and the performance of your manufacturing and business processes.  The power of employees to change your business is enormous.  The question for HR departments, managers and company leaders is: “How can we incubate this type of high-performance culture within our company?”

The answer may be simpler than you think.  Experience has shown that introducing problem solving techniques as a part of operational training programs not only promotes the skills that employees need to contribute to continuous improvement but also sets the stage for a culture where employees feel like their ideas are valued and they have an opportunity to make a difference.  The combination of skills and culture, amplified by the scale of the employee community creates the potential for dramatic impact.

Historically, companies have considered problem-solving techniques to be leadership skills and focused training only on management roles and a few hi-potential individuals being groomed for advancement.  They are correct in making the association between problem-solving and leadership, but where most companies are missing the boat is in thinking that leadership skills are only needed by people in management positions.  Every individual in your company has both leadership potential and opportunities to translate that potential into value each day. 

Operational staff (regardless of job title or department) represent some of the greatest un-tapped potential your company has and each day that you fail to recognize and leverage that potential is opportunity lost. Problem-solving techniques can be a helpful tool in unlocking that leadership potential by giving your employees the tools they need to:

  • Understand and break down complex problem.
  • Confidently make decisions that align to company goals
  • Focus on high-impact issues and opportunities
  • Identify and proactively manage risks
  • Ask the right questions to uncover hidden insights

Promoting problem-solving techniques will not only up-level the skillset of your employees but can cause a fundamental shift in their mindset as well.  Many employees in operational roles feel more like a resource to the company (performing work) than an asset (creating value) with employee productivity aligning to job expectations rather than the employee’s potential.  By introducing problem-solving techniques to this community, the company can send the strong message that employees are not a “cogs in the machine” but rather agents of change whose ideas and contributions are respected and appreciated. 

Operational training programs are an ideal mechanism for introducing problem-solving techniques as they are targeted to the employee community with the most un-tapped potential and they provide an opportunity to integrate problem-solving concepts with the hands-on job related skills and scenarios where employees will need to use them. Operational training is also typically one of the first experiences a new employee has with the company and emphasizing problem-solving in this context positions it as a cultural norm of the company.

Kepner-Tregoe is the industry leader in problem-solving techniques.  The experts at KT have been helping companies integrate problem-solving into business processes, operational training and leadership development programs for over 60 years.  To learn about our customers’ success stories and how KT can help your company unlock the untapped ideas and potential of your workforce, visit here