Managerial Problem Solving

Eventually you will find yourself in a circumstance when things are not progressing as well as they ought to be. You may have upset (external) customers on your hands or upset (internal) customers yelling at you. Internal customers can be anyone in your organization with an interest in what you are doing. If you find yourself standing on quicksand… what do you do?

What Are You Doing to Improve the Situation?

Let’s say a specific job or item absolutely must be accomplished by a given due date. Let’s also say that you know things are not going well. What do you do about it? One mistake of new management (or perhaps just lazy management) might be to tell your boss so that he/she can solve the problem so… the problem seems to have been shifted to them. You are a victim of the “It’s not my fault – I passed it up the line” mentality.

A problem solving manager lifts a piece out of falling dominoes

Simply telling your boss about it doesn’t always solve a problem (in fact, it rarely solves a problem). When a due date looms, superior managers figure out a way to get things done! Just kicking it upstairs doesn’t get it out of your lap. If you have kicked it upstairs, you have failed – and now your manager has failed, too. You look bad, and your newly tarnished boss is not happy about it, either.

Solve Problems

Look for ways to solve a problem! If you see things are not going well, look for a way to head it off early. Discuss issues with various departments as soon as you realize things are not going as quickly as they should. Maybe options can be created when time is still on your side. As you wait longer and longer, alternatives become more and more limited. Eventually there are no options left but to fail, or be late. This is unacceptable! This means you have waited too long to take action.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Don’t wait for you subordinates to come to you and tell you things are not going well. Keep in constant contact with them, especially on high priority jobs or customers. If they are having difficulties, they will be afraid to report them and that will make things worse for you. Jump in there! Ask them how things are going. Ask when they’ll be done. Ask if you can do anything to speed them up. Your job is to get as much out of your team as possible. If that means moving materials to them, or making copies for them, etc… so be it. Maybe you’ll have to get in there and do the job yourself. So be it!

The end result is a happy customer – and a happy boss. Sitting on your hands and spouting that you told the boss about a given problem doesn’t help anything (least of all, your own position). Figuring out how to get around problems is what makes for a successful manager. This will help in leading your team if they can lean on you to help get things done. It will also make you shine to your own boss. When they know they’ve got someone on their team that solves problems and makes their job easier, you become very valuable.