Collaborative Problem Solving

I found a post from a couple of years ago, that I wrote inside of my past employer that I thought would be a good one here. Of course, I have updated it some! When you think about collaborative problem solving you think of trying to herd cats to accomplish fixing something or maybe you welcome the opportunity to get the collective team together to fix something. How well does collective problem solving work for you? For me, early on in my career, I used to get a mixed bag of results. I sometimes welcomed or dreaded using collaborative problem solving. Why? Simply put the barrier of success could be me or you or someone on the team. Think back to the problem – was it really a problem or maybe an individual made it a problem? Add more people into the mix, the problem can really be far from really what is happening. So, what do you do??

Keep the focus on the simply on the problem. Of course, that means that you and the team need to spend sometime truly identifying the problem. Clearly and concisely as possible. Identify the gap on what is happening and what should be happening. Define that desired state! First step in collaborative here is getting agreement on the problem. Once agreed upon, write it down – keep it visible.

Problem must matter! Above you got agreement on the problem, that is a powerful first step. Getting the team to really focus on what the expected outcome will be and how great it will be for them will add a layer of frosting on the teams cake. Some of the team may agree on the problem and just go about doing the same old stuff (status quo), but keep the focused on the why and benefits will keep them from the status quo.

Let team discuss concerns and potential barriers. Giving the team an opportunity to put forth all of the concerns (some of that will be their personal agenda) and desired outcomes gives everyone a clear view. So, create that safe environment to get people talking.  If everyone was just to let the team lead do everything from identifying the problem, why and desired outcome – nothing will change. Get everyone involved, actively involved.

Get everyone on board. I know this seems like just me summarizing what was above. Think about it awhile… If you are the leader of the team, this area is going to be the toughest for you. Your team may say that they are on board. They may even give it a try. Actions speak! Watch closely for individuals that a still posturing or holding out for their solution. Be ready to act on your part quickly. Remember this is the whole team.

Over the years, I have seen better results when I apply the above. Is it completely successful? Not really. Collaborative problem solving is difficult and requires time and effort. When collaborative problem solving is done right, it is a very powerful tool. It also, demonstrates to the complete team that they are a high performing team…