So, what do you suggest we do about it?
Bring solutions, not problems
This maxim is applicable both internally and externally. Everybody comes up against obstacles, but we consider it a sign of mental laziness to try to “drop” the problem onto someone else. You do this when you tell someone you have a problem but you don’t suggest any possible solutions for the person to consider. What you have effectively done is given the responsibility for the problem to the other person. We have found that it is much more productive when you own your own problems, and you don’t dump them on others. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions or get help, those are important elements of problem solving.
In some ways, this maxim is the essence of problem solving. At least to the degree that you do not start problem solving until you decide you own the problem. If you do not own the problem, you have little incentive to actively try to solve it, which takes time and effort.
In our world, information obstacles are common on a project. The information we need is rarely in the form that we need it and is often difficult to access. Put yourself in the shoes of a Project manager who has asked for some specific information and the staff returns and says one of these lines:
- I can’t get the information because the system is down
- They don’t track the information we are looking for
- The information I was given seems to be wrong
All three responses may be valid but they simply turn the problem over to the manager. Now the manager has the responsibility to figure out how to overcome the problem. If the manager does this, the person does not learn how to solve problems, and in fact the act of dumping problems on others is inadvertently reinforced. A smart manager will reply to any of the three statements above, “So, what do you suggest we do about it?”