Include Everyone In Problem-Solving

Dr. Platter,

I need a powerful, innovative solution.  I am a manager of a supply company that provides materials for commercial construction projects.  I have been with the company five years and enjoy my job most days.  The problem I’m having is that sometimes the clients complain about the product even when it is exactly what they ordered.  I have a large territory and cannot always give the client the individualized attention they need.  The sales people and installers have far more contact with the clients than I.   During the times when I have had the time to visit an unhappy client, the problem is usually an easy one to resolve.  I don’t want to complain to the owners because they might I can’t handle the job.  However, I know that if clients continue to complain, that will reflect badly on me as well.  What advice do you have? 




You have made tremendous progress to get to this stage of the process.  By taking the advice from the first two blogs, you have begun to view problems in a broad way.  You have also learned that trying to solve a problem quickly can sometimes lead to solving the wrong problem and getting a negative result.  Most importantly, you have begun to engage a team of people to help you make the organization better not only for this issue, but for others as well.

This stage of the process involves hiring a trained facilitator or strategic planning professional.  You might be tempted to choose someone from inside the organization to facilitate the process.  That would be a mistake.  If you want all members of this problem-solving team to engage fully, there must not be any title differences, pay difference, history, or the potential for a future story with the facilitator.  Everyone, including you, must be viewed as equals by the facilitator for the process to yield long-lasting, engaging results.  The threat with choosing someone from inside the organization is that people will give answers that are expected instead of giving truthful responses.  

A trained facilitator is only as effective as the information provided.  The unbiased information you gathered from open-ended interviews is crucial information for the facilitator before the process begins.  Some organizations go so far as to have the facilitator conduct the open-ended interviews, so everyone gets the information at the same time.  This is the best option if the budget allows.

The facilitator can help the stakeholders identify and create a powerful innovative solution by leading the team the team through the E4 process.  First, the team will engage in exercises to set an expectation or vision for the organization.  Next, the team will examine everything that is required for all stakeholders to execute the action plan with excellence.  Thirdly, the team will determine which metrics will be used to measure success and how often these metrics should be examined.  Finally, the team will decide which conditions would need to be present for the organization to exit the plan or engage on a continuous improvement cycle.  

When the team has completed this work, J, you will be the primary person for communicating the plan, ensuring that everyone is complying and providing the necessary motivation and rewards to ensure the success of the plan.  

In future blogs, the E4 process will be explained in more detail.

All the best to you and your team, J.