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All organisations want to create a positive and optimistic workplace culture.  Every responsible CEO knows that a positive problem-solving culture is fundamental to high performance and more.  But very few leaders have an established process in place or understand the implications if they don’t. 

Whatever the industry, successful companies accept that problems will, inevitably, occur. Alongside this, these firms also acknowledge that major problems have to be addressed head-on and that a structured problem-solving method, shared across the whole organisation, is much more effective than any ad hoc set of responses.  

With firm problem-solving foundations, organisations can genuinely become lean and agile and achieve marginal gains that deliver significant business improvement.  In this article, we look at the top ten essential traits that leaders need to embrace personally and embed in their teams to create a positive problem-solving culture.

1. Make problem-solving a team game

Successful organisations build great teams, set them clear goals and allocate the resources needed to uncover effective solutions. Build teams of empowered, diverse thinkers before you tackle complex problems.

2. Build the stamina to fail

Great leaders nurture the ‘stamina to fail’ and ensure important decision-making is evidence-based and data-driven. Successful teams know that effective solutions come from a full understanding of any problem – and that requires an acceptance of failure and a willingness to discuss it openly.  

3. Define the problem clearly 

Are you solving the causes of your major problems or are you just tackling the symptoms? Experience tells us that without a well-defined problem, employees often view the issue personally, influenced by how it affected them or their team, and then work towards different, often conflicting solutions. 

4. Don’t rush, allow enough time

Successful organisations know that effective problem solving requires genuine analysis and that this requires time. Sometimes lots of it. In this age of time poverty, targets and financial pressures we often feel the need to solve problems quickly.  This can be exacerbated by the perception that a ‘good problem solver’ should always be able to come up with great solutions immediately.  The opposite is closer to the truth.

5. A separate analysis from storytelling 

Humans are natural storytellers, but stories rarely make for strong analysis. Great organisations promote an analytical mindset and encourage evidence-based decision making. In recent years the lines between analysis (logic) and narrative (stories) have become increasingly blurred. Much of what we once considered narrative and opinion has been repackaged as analysis and vice-versa. Know the difference. 

6. Look beyond ‘what happened’

Imagine your problem is water spilt from a bottle. You not only have to tip the bottle over (the ‘what happened’), you also have to have water in the bottle and no cap on the bottle to restrict any leak (the ‘how it happened’). A positive problem-solving culture encourages teams to look well beyond the actions that took place and investigate the environment and circumstances too.

7. Don’t play the blame game

When it comes to problems, there is nearly always a human involved somewhere. But were they the cause or just the final part of an inevitable chain of events? Many managers often stop at the human, leading to a blame culture. This toxic culture not only distracts from the bigger picture, but it also causes people to close ranks, storing up the risk for the future.

8. Don’t expect a single cause

Great organisations recognise that problems are rarely the result of just a single cause. When asked to describe the difference between himself and a typical person, Einstein explained that the typical person, faced with the problem of finding a needle in a haystack, would stop when they had located a needle. But Einstein said that he would tear through the entire haystack looking for all possible needles. 

9. Don’t rely on a magic bullet

In addition to trying to find a single cause to a complex problem, organisations can also become fixated on uncovering the ‘right’ solution. Great organisations know that trying to uncover a ‘magic bullet’ or ‘unicorn solution’ is also doomed to fail. A portfolio of complementary solutions always provides maximum protection from future risk. 

10. Share effective reporting

Great organisations pride themselves on effective reporting.  They create and utilise intelligent ways to record, present and share mission-critical information – and they act upon it. All great organisations collect, understand and communicate valuable information to improve their corporate memory. 

These ten traits reveal that for an organisation to create a positive problem-solving culture a shared approach is required. For most, this change has to be structured and must begin at the top. Root Cause Analysis Training is a great step to take to develop your organisation’s problem-solving methods.