Over the years I have worked in numerous companies in the turbulent financial services industry. There were always special projects and consultants in and out the door trying to solve problems or force solutions. Inevitably, the result was reworking teams or systems and even layoffs. After several months the same problems would crop up, and another roller coaster ride began.
Not everyone has the skills to be a problem solver and look at an issue objectively to find root causes. Companies spend too much money and resources chasing down problems and often end up sticking in short term solutions or even worse, they guess what is causing problems or go with the traditional groupthink of the moment rather than going through a process. It becomes a headache for everyone.
Nat Greene’s new book Stop Guessing The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers is a read for anyone that faces problems at work or in their personal lives. We all need to change the way that we think of and approach problems. Nat has worked with companies for years to solve problems and change mindsets. He is frustrated that the biggest problem with problem-solving is problem-solving. Problem-solving for most has become just good old guessing. When the first guess fails, we move onto the next theory or as some like to call it, hypothesis. This can turn into an exhausting game of guessing which costs time, resources, money, and burns everyone out. Many problems consist of too many facets to even begin guessing at a problem, and nothing is solved.
Nat Greene shows us how we should approach problems differently. He offers numerous engaging real-life stories to illustrate how we can change our problem-solving mindset and provides tools that can be used by anyone for any problem. Stop Guessing is an easy read that seamlessly flows from chapter to chapter and Nat builds on the principles that he shares. His passion is assisting people to make more efficient decisions using behaviors that are immediately implemented.
The core of Stop Guessing is the 9 behaviors that Nat introduces us to so that we can jump on the path to become better problem solvers. It doesn’t matter if the production equipment is broke or your oven stopped working. The approach that he shares is the same and will save time, money, and hours of frustration. Ready to start solving real problems?
The 9 behaviors of great problem solvers
1. Stop guessing. Most of us default to guessing or brainstorming for solutions. We are pressured to make quick fixes and solve issues yesterday. Understanding why a problem exists and investigating it is the place to start. Nate suggests that when a problem crops up, have everyone write down their guesses as to what the problem and solution are and put it in a drawer. Look at it after the problem is solved. The remaining behaviors below should assist in measuring the problem, not guess.
2. Smell the problem. You need to get out of your office and roam around into the field to find the pulse of the problem to use your senses. Attempt to find some patterns that emerge by being out and about. Ask relevant questions and involve people, study details, sift out what is happening – no guessing.
3. Embrace your ignorance. What you don't know is what can solve a problem. Put aside any previous knowledge or assumptions. Start with the basics and work up from there. Proudly accept what you don’t know and don’t hide it. Ask dumb questions and don’t worry about how you look. Ditch the ego.
4. Know what problem you are solving. Sounds crazy but often people jump to conclusions and work on the wrong problem. Define what the problem is and keep those assumptions out of the picture along with staying within the scope you initially defined. Use time and resources up front to properly measure and explain an issue.
5. Dig into the fundamentals. Learn how a process functions by understanding the process and any data or science around it. Dig only into what is relevant, not everything. Be mindful of which variables you examine and have control over.
6. Don’t rely on experts. This is my favorite. What is the first thing that we do if we can't solve an issue? Bring in the outsiders and walk away. They can be helpful for understanding a system or its functions, but we shouldn't just turn everything over to them. We should still own the process. They aren't wizards but our collaborators. The problem solving is on us.
7. Believe in a simple solution. Have the tenacity to continue working on the problem until it is solved. Don't always assume a solution is expensive or complicated. Find the cause and perhaps 1-2 variable that are off and your problem may be solved.
8. Make fact-based decisions. Try to avoid relying on opinions, guesses, team votes or ranking systems. They won’t bring you any closer to solving problems. Always challenge your facts and measure without any biases.
9. Stay on Target. It’s easy to get lost in data and causes when you have a problem if you embrace too much you will be testing and forever wasting resources. Try to “measure drivers” that control a problem and don’t allow the issue to become cluttered. Stay on course and do not permit yourself to become distracted.
Nat concludes our problem-solving journey by assisting us in choosing our personal method for solving problems. We are all unique in how we approach problems using the strengths and tools at our disposal. An efficient problem solver needs some structure to stay focused and individual behaviors of the 9 Nat introduced us to will play to our strengths. No matter what methods that you employ you should not use guessing as a tool. Once you read Stop Guessing, you may never guess or make assumptions again! Nat's goal is for us to use structure, find patterns of failure, stay on track, and understand how a process works so that you can use data and measurable information to have a solution.
I highly recommend reading Stop Guessing and using some of the 9 behaviors that Nat shares. The behaviors are people and human capital focused and are the key to bringing actionable solutions to problems of all sizes. The ideas that Nat shares will save time resources, money, and egos. Teams will feel empowered to solve problems without all the “stuff” getting in the way.
You can pick up a copy of Nat’s book on Amazon.com.