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Robert Stewart


Why—and How to—Build an Army of Problem Solvers

What if everyone in your organization followed the same, effective problem-solving process?

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 13:01

Sponsored Content

During the past 40 years, according to a Nov.-Dec. 2015 Military Review article, “The United States Army’s Secret to Success Capitalizing on the Human Dimension to Enhance Its Combat Capabilities,” the U.S. Army has completely transformed its structure and culture by “enabling each soldier to take initiative and resolve problems at the lowest level appropriate to achieve the commander’s intent.”

In short, the U.S. Army has built an army of problem solvers. The benefits are many, including:
• More time for officers to concentrate on complex and strategic issues
• Extended operational and tactical reach
• “Ingenious” ways to overcome obstacles and complete missions

Problems are a fact of life. If an organization isn’t dealing with problems, it’s probably missing opportunities and may be vulnerable to competition. How we identify, define, and resolve problems, and whether we even recognize them, can be the difference between success or failure, meeting goals or falling short, winning or losing. Problem solving can be thrilling, frustrating, exasperating, and rewarding, all at the same time. A problem needing to be solved might be a moment of truth. Do it well, and the future is bright; do it poorly, and you may have to start all over.

Most agree that those closest to the work know best how to improve it. Others note that “6–7 percent of problems are known to top managers and middle managers; 75–100 percent of them are known by supervisors and frontline workers.” By effectively engaging the frontline workforce in problem solving, organizations can indeed improve performance.

How does your organization build your army of problem solvers? As a leader, what problem-solving skills do you expect of your people? Have you armed them with a consistent problem-solving process? How do you personally approach problems, and set the example?

How would it help your organization if everyone followed the same, simple, effective problem-solving process?

Organizational problems range from simple to complex. Simple ones can be solved by a small team; complex problems are better solved when the team adheres to a disciplined, structured process. Regardless of the type of problem, problem solving—especially in organizations—is a team sport. The more capable the team, the better the results.

To be a high-performing problem-solving organization, you need:
• A common skill set and process for everyone
• Training that is easily understood by all, especially the frontline workforce
• Guidance on solving problems at the lowest level possible
• A low-variation training model so everyone can speak a common language
• Understanding of team-based problem solving
• Direction on solving problems from the simple to the complex
• An approach that is fast, rapidly scalable, and simple

To help organizations build their army of problem solvers, OpusWorks offers its “Problem-Solving Essentials” course. The course is based on more than 25 years of experience helping many of the world’s most respected organizations leverage OpusWorks’ advanced blended learning technology (interactive e-learning content, blended learning design, and game-changing platform) to accelerate their operational excellence deployments.

The course features the Go 4 It four-step problem-solving framework: “Identify It,” “Dig Into It,” “Fix It,” and “Track It,” which are simple, powerful, easily understood, and actionable systems in “plain English,” are accessible to all. Because a solved problem often eliminates waste, the course teaches core Lean principles. Participants also learn about A3s, PDCA, root cause analysis, and more as people strive to:
• Solve the right problems, at the right time, and keep them solved
• Embrace a mindset of problem prevention in addition to problem solving
• Stimulate a culture of intolerance to defects and inefficiencies
• Equip people to see any process as an opportunity for improvement
• Sufficiently practice knowledge application so the new habits stick
• Motivate everyone to be fanatical about waste elimination

Although the content is excellent, the all-virtual blended learning delivery format is particularly compelling, and a bonus for those also pressured to reduce travel and work disruption costs for training. The OpusWorks Problem-Solving Essentials course is collaborative, productive, and effective. It is designed for 12 participants: three teams of four people, either from different organizations or the same one. The all-virtual format includes:
• Kickoff session (one hour)
• Pre-work e-learning modules that are self-paced, interactive, and engaging
• Classes led by expert instructors who are also highly skilled virtual facilitators
• Four-week schedule (two e-learning hours and a 90-minute class per week)

OpusWorks invites you to consider Problem-Solving Essentials as you plan how to build your army. Our mission is to energize army building that is simpler, quicker, and more consistent than any other approach.

As a first step, enroll a single team or gather three teams for a custom class. At some point, you may want to bring the course in-house, customize it, and deliver it using your experts. To begin a discussion about options, please click here.


About The Author

Robert Stewart’s picture

Robert Stewart

Rob Stewart is the CEO of OpusWorks. For the past 25+ years, Rob has been an advocate, leader, and evangelist for the wise application of advanced learning and systems technologies to improve learning outcomes, drive culture change, increase communications effectiveness, and power strategic execution initiatives. OpusWorks, enables organizations to effortlessly scale and deploy operational excellence, problem solving, and process improvement initiatives with a highly flexible platform and world-class, blended e-learning.