Why you should give your teams problems to solve, not solutions to implement

In my role as a consultant, part of what I do is observe problems. Here are some of the problems I observe:
– Technology leaders stressed out, banging their heads to find solutions to difficult business problems.
– Technology teams not fully engaged, waiting for the next “unrealistic thing to implement in an unreasonable timeline” from leadership. – Customers who don’t feel like their success is at the core of how their service providers do business.

In this article I will explore the practice of giving problems to the team to solve, rather than solutions to implement and how it improves leadership’s leverage, teams’ engagement, and customer satisfaction.

The secret of leverage

Here is the dirty little secret of business, “Leverage is the difference between effective leadership and ineffective leadership.” What I mean by leverage, specifically, is the art of using resources around you to multiply the impact of your strategies and execution.

How this applies is that most technology leaders became leaders because they were good at technology. In fact, most of them were so good they were promoted. So they are used to being the person with the answers, able to create elegant solutions to difficult problems.

Its not your job to be the smartest guy in the room

However, when you move to a position of leadership, its no longer your job to be the smartest guy in the room. Its your job to create teams of people who are smarter than you. Why? So you can leverage their intelligence. 10 smart people looking at a problem will envision a wider range of acceptable solutions.

Pro tip: Don’t keep the problem space to yourself in your head. Explain to your teams the top 3 business problems you and the rest of the leadership are trying to solve.

Engaged employees don’t need to be told to work hard

Have you ever had those moments where you just fall into the flow? Where the direct line from your creativity and your logic just meld together into an ever-satisfying melange of bright shiny goodness? I’m sure you have. This is what being fully engaged feels like. Unfortunately, most of your teams are not fully engaged.

They aren’t fully engaged because no one is engaging them to actually help solve problems. I talk to countless numbers of front line workers and middle management and a lot of them have the same complaint, “Leadership goes off and comes up with some hair-brained solution on an unrealistic timeline and we’re supposed to make it happen.” This is a source of frustration and even worse, a source of disengagement.

Pro tip: Involve some of the members of your teams into your high-level planning sessions, ask their opinions, and really consider their input. People are more likely to buy into a solution they helped co-create.

Your customers are why you’re in business

The very core of what you do is to solve problems your customers are willing to pay to have solved, but your customers problems may not permeate beyond the “business development” layer of your organization.

Its important to keep the “customer mission” at the top of mind when engaging your problem solvers. Helping everyone understand the customers’ problems means that we reduce the risk of “a solution looking for a problem.”

Pro tip: Make sure the understanding of customers problems’ extend beyond sales and marketing into the technical teams mindsets.

Better customer engagement, better employee engagement, better solutions overall.

Whats not to like? You’re in business to serve your customers, and technical teams are technical because they like to solve problems. Lucky for you, that fits right in line with the core mission of your business. Give your teams problems to solve rather than solutions to implement, you will be amazed at the results

Until Next Time, Stay Agile, My Friends