Make problem solving a way of life in your organisation to respond to unprecedented challenges.
In Part two of this article, we will look at the next 4 ingredients to build a sustainable problem solving culture. They are Leadership, Experiential Learning, Meaning, and Safety.
When it comes to driving cultural change, leaders play a pivotal role in using their behaviour to set the tone for what’s acceptable within a company. If leaders want to make change happen, they need to start from respecting the expertise of the people on their team and focussing on finding ways to support them in problem solving.
Leadership teams need to adopt the problem solving process and also to role model behavioural shifts. Team members will be observing leaders if they are modelling curiosity and asking more questions when working together. Leaders also need to demonstrate vulnerability. By reframing vulnerability as a strength, leaders stop worrying about having every answer and realise it is okay to be wrong. To be a catalyst in problem solving, leaders should invest efforts in ensuring teams are given enough time and resources to devote to problem solving.
6. Experiential Learning
Solving complex problems require team members to constantly learn new skills and develop new knowledge to meet the changing demands. The ability to reflect and learn from every problem solving session will ensure that the team is better equipped to solve the next problem that they confront.
An effective problem solving process should require individuals to act and learn from their experience at the same time. The best learning happens when people work on finding sustainable solutions to real time burning issues that matters to them at the workplace. By creating a learning environment that helps employees develop new skills and grow professionally, it will help in entrenching the problem solving culture in the organisation. The reason why the Action Learning process is effective for learning is because it embodies the principles of adult learning. Besides, the Action Learning coach helps to design and enable conditions out of which people can help one other to learn. This helps to prevent a group from devoting all of its time and energies only on solving the problem.
Finding a sense of purpose in working on the problem and finding solution is important in building problem solving culture. Employees yearn to contribute in meaningful ways and giving them an opportunity to work on the problems your organisation is facing is a great way to engage them. This means that leaders need to help problem solving teams draw the link between the problem they are working on and the organisation’s purpose.
Purpose is your organisation’s reason for being and the difference you make in the world. In order to feel inspired to invest time and energy to solve a particular problem, employees need to see how the problem is connected to your company’s purpose and understand how its resolution do contribute to it.
For problem solving culture to flourish, leaders need to nurture a safe environment for team members to work together. It is about creating a setting in which team members feel secure, and so able to review their mental models, recognise the need for change, and see the impact of their actions on real problems.
In a team with high psychological safety, individuals feel safe to take risks around their team members without being seen as ignorant, incompetent, or disruptive. They feel confident that no one on the problem solving team will embarrass or punish anyone for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea. There will be understanding that when a problem is properly defined by the team, the root cause usually turns out to be not a particular group or individual to be fixed but an underlying factor that the organisation can address. Indeed, the open discussion of problems is critical to the success of every organisation.
The Covid-10 pandemic has amplified the need for organisations to build a problem solving culture that lasts. The ingredients to build such a culture is embedded in the eight letters of the word P-R-O-B-L-E-M-S. Companies with well-established problem solving culture will benefit from the strength of the collective wisdom of people and the engagement and enthusiasm that they bring to their work.
Kok Hwa is a Professional Action Learning Coach, Certified Executive Coach, and Learning Facilitator. He enjoys coaching teams to enhance their effectiveness and bringing out the best potential from individuals. He is the Vice-President of World Institute for Action Learning Global Board of Directors.
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