How to solve your most critical problems

First, the challenge

Let’s say you have been told by your board, by your chairman, CEO, or direct leader to solve three problems you identify and report back within a month showing progress – or that you have solved these three.

But wait.  You have questions!

First, you’d worry that this is an artificial way to focus management.  Why three? Why now? After a short moment, you’d turn into action mode, perhaps calling in senior staff for a brainstorming session.

So, you identify the three most critical issues, perhaps with the help of the group. What next?  Here comes the important part.

Here are the steps to do it successfully.

Define success: Think of what an ideal outcome would look like and find metrics to measure progress along the route.

Create milestones: Make them public, easy to identify when reached, and follow progress toward each, again publicly posting the progress and achievement.

[Email readers, continue here…] 

Simplify the process:  Reexamine the definition and milestones.  Find ways to make each step clear and simple enough for all to understand and follow.  Err on the side of oversimplification.  Remember that this exercise has a time limit for completion.

Set expectations for each participant, clearly listing the expected outcome for each person and department, asking them to define the steps they will make toward completion and how they will measure each.

Measure the outcomes.  Was the intent to remove a barrier?  Increase marketing effectiveness? Increase sales closing rate?  Reduce manufacturing or shipping errors?  Speed the processes?  Measure how each of the three resulted in a gain, and publicly report the outcome.

Finally, celebrate the wins with the whole team.  Never forget to celebrate, compliment, reward.   Just three critical issues that will have led to three positive outcomes.  Now that would be a good month for any of us.  Why not try it now?

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