4 Questions to Shift Your Thinking and Deliver the Right Solution
By Ryan Fullmer
March 29, 2022
Leading with the solution
Too often teams start off a project with a predetermined solution in mind. This can lead the team down a path where they deliver the solution and find that it doesn’t really address the customer’s needs.
We saw this with a project team that engaged us to sort through the automation requirements for a new service management system. After several workshop sessions, they had identified a range of solutions including process changes, targeted automation changes, policy clarifications, and change management activities. This new strategy moved the case management system implementation to much later in the project, while allowing them to make process improvements right away.
This was a turning point for the project and avoided months of work that would have yielded few results and failed to deliver value fast enough for their customers. How did they move from “we know the solution” to “there are a range of solutions”? The key was shifting the team’s thinking from a solution-driven mindset to a problem-driven mindset.
What is the problem?
This seems like an obvious question. As we worked with the team, it was clear that the problem had become entangled with the solution. They had lost sight of what problems they needed to address. They were able to take a step back by describing the current situation, identifying the challenges and problems the staff were facing and describing why they were addressing these issues now. The team now had a clearer picture of the problem and was able to narrow in on a few core challenges they needed to address right away.
Who are we doing this for?
Based on the top challenges, the team identified the customers and stakeholders involved. They used a couple of simple tools to visualize, organize and categorize the customers and stakeholders. By visualizing the customers and stakeholders, they had the clarity they needed to identify the primary customers and key stakeholders to focus on.
What limitations do we have?
The team identified key constraints that needed to be considered. These constraints ranged from budget, policy, required capabilities, staff skills, cultural hurdles and timeframes. These limitations helped the team begin to think more broadly about the types of solutions that would be needed to address the situation at hand.
What is the goal?
The project team initially thought that the goal was the delivery of the service management system. By asking them to identify the outcomes that were needed, they began to see that success was much different than the delivery of the system.
For example, the team described their ambition for the project was ultimately to improve the service being delivered to their clients, moving beyond meeting compliance requirements to improving the client’s quality of life. They wanted staff to have the data they needed when they needed it so they could make great decisions and deliver the right services. They would improve the ability of staff and partners to communicate and coordinate services.
For each part of the ambition, the team described what success would look like. This helped the team broaden their perspective and move past the idea that delivering the system was the measure of success for the project.
A Range of Solutions
As the team worked through the four questions, they realized that the service management system wasn’t the only solution. They began to identify other solution options to consider. There were business process changes, policy clarifications, IT infrastructure improvements, and change management activities to consider. By stepping back and exploring the problem, they realized that they had jumped to a solution. The team was able to develop a strategy that focused on achieving outcomes by addressing the challenges that were in the way.