In the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review Jeff Weiss, Aram Donigian, Jonathan Huges discuss in their article “Extreme Negotiations” the importance of affecting process not just outcomes in negotiations. The same holds true in problem solving since negotiations are only problems of bringing two sides to agreement. Thus, you can get different solutions by changing your problem-solving process.
In one simple situation, Manager A took the initiative of drafting a plan for review. Manager B did not like it. Thus, they decided to collaborate on the next rendition. As another example, two hiring managers couldn’t agree on a candidate, so they changed the process by requiring the candidate to write a business plan for his hire.
Here are some techniques I use to alter the problem-solving process. I change the:
- Process by having another person or group create it
- Point at which people work independently and then come together
- Definition of the problem to include more lower-tier variables
- Makeup of the people or teams involved in the process
- Documentation required even to the point of using different forms and templates
- Timetable of when a solution is needed
- Any screening and filtering steps to allow more or fewer options
- Stakeholders involved in the process usually by adding new ones
- Objective of the process such as focusing on options not the solution
- Facilitator of the process
- Location of any meetings such as from office to offsite
- Forum for any meetings such as in person versus video conferences
- Initial parameters of what constitutes a viable option for processing
Of course, each problem-solving situation presents its own additional aspects that could effect change in process. So, if you’re not getting the solutions you want, change the process.