change managers are using some techniques for solving problems that are
surprisingly simple. These methods
are turning out to be more important as
find that quick problem solving is the key to successful change.
Unfortunately many managers
approach problem solving at work like
a mathematical puzzle. They think
that they just have
to work out the one right answer and everything will
be fine. Even worse, they think that every idea must be examined and
rejected if it has any
A typical conversation
‘Our two computer
systems are not compatible,’ says the manager of one department that is
to merge with another. ‘Why not insist that both departments use one
of the existing systems?’ asks one of his colleagues.
‘Yes, but think of the
cost of replacing all that equipment’ says a second.
‘It'll never work,’ says
a third. ‘We can't possibly ask people to do it,’ says the manager. And
‘Yes, but...’, ‘It'll never
work’ and ‘We can't do that,’ are the three most common
idea killers. One
encouraging more creative thought is to only allow ‘Yes and’. Then
the example above may go like this:
‘Why not insist that
both companies use one of the existing systems?’ asks colleague number
one. ‘Yes, and we could use our
spares instead of buying all new
equipment,’ says number two. ‘Yes, and to save costs our people could
train their people,’ says number three. ‘OK, we may have something here,’
says the manager. And an idea has
Wouldn't it be wonderful if...
A surprisingly powerful
to pose an ideal solution. Try saying,
‘Wouldn't it be wonderful if...’ In our example:
‘Wouldn't it be
wonderful if the two computer systems could talk to each other just like
that?’ says the manager. ‘With some sort of interface between them?’ says
number one. ‘Hey, I think I've heard of this really smart company who
specialize in that
sort of thing,’ says number two. And another idea
Another useful technique is
just to ask yourself:
What's stopping us from doing
this? Sometimes the
answer is surprising.
A production line
was told that the
night staff could not work the new system he had
suggested. He wanted them to sign their names on a quality control sheet.
The day staff had all
agreed without a problem. Instead of forgetting the
idea he asked what was stopping them. ‘The stationery store is
night, so we can't get pens for all of us,’ he was told.
A new key was
cut, given to the supervisor, and the new system worked perfectly.
does that do for you?
Sometimes we think we know
the solution, but it may not work. One way to find another possibility is
to ask ‘what does that do for us?’
‘All I want is
job back’ said the worker again. The factory had closed, so this was not
possible. ‘What would that do for you?’ asked the
counselor. ‘It would
give me back my dignity,’ he answered. ‘If you could train for a new
skill, what else would give you dignity?’ asked the counselor. ‘Well, I
suppose I've always liked the idea of driving
big lorries,’ the worker
said. And a new possibility had opened for him.