Working with Management: Solve the Problem

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 16

After writing Working with Management: Five characteristics of a Cubicle Warrior, I re-read the post and thought that the points made were good, but they needed expanding. I’ve already expanded the thoughts around Working with Management: Delivery, so today’s post is the expanded version of “Solve the Problem.”

As noted in the first article, solving the problem is about focusing on the problem and how to fix it. Not about whining. Not politics.

There is an assumption behind solving the problem. The assumption is this: business is about solving problems in order to increase profits; whether through increasing revenue, reducing costs, or making a process more efficient, solving problems makes things better.

Solving problems also involves change and accepting change is a tough thing to do for many people.

When faced with problems to solve, people tend to blame other departments or areas. They tend to complain about the problem. Or they look at the problem and figure out the political implications of various solutions to the problems — like if we fix this problem, we’ll get laid off, for example.

The effect of this approach is many; all bad:

  • Longer time frame to come up with a solution to the problem
  • Unwillingness to buy into the solution to the problem
  • Lack of creativity in solving the problem because of the possible political implications.

Cubicle Warriors, in comparison, focus on solving the problem, regardless of the implications. The real answer to problem “X” is solution “Y” and here are the reasons why it solves the problem. This solution has no constraints. The solution assumes that all departments will see the wisdom of solving the problem in this manner. The solution strategically ignores all politics. Some would suggest that the solution is extreme. Or naive. I agree.

Yes, it is a naive view of the world on the surface. It is an extreme answer on the surface. But solving the problem as if there were no constraints has a great wisdom: all objections to the solution will manifest, all constraints will surface, and most of the objections and constraints will be overcome resulting in a better overall solution to the problem.

Cubicle Warriors advance the right solution, even if extreme, because most of the time 80% of what was in the original solution will be retained (Scot’s 80/20 rule of solutions, if you will…). And all of the compromises will be yours to give and you will end up viewed as being really right about the solution but willing to compromise on the reality of the situation.

And, from a management perspective, the accurate perception is that you are the one person who suggested a tough solution that solves the problem and then worked with the team to come up with what was really able to be done to solve the problem for now.

Not whining. Not complaining. Not politics. Solving the problem to make things better.

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