Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions
“Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions.” If you’ve been in the business world for a while, you’ve most likely heard the phrase plenty. Companies believe the phrase helps inspire employees to take initiative and solve problems. It should cut complaining and focus people on finding solutions to their problems. The problem is, it’s bad for business.
The idea behind saying “Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions” seems like a good one on the surface. We don’t want people simply complaining about issues in the workplace. If they find a problem, they should take the time to think of ways they can solve it, before coming to management or others. It seems like a good way to look at things.
Jim Rohn, an American author, once said, “To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?” These are excellent questions to consider, but for more complex problems, we like to follow what’s known as the rational decision-making model.
The rational decision-making model has been around for countless years in the scientific community and within the study of organizational behaviour. It’s the process I’ve used throughout my career because it follows a very logical step-by-step approach that makes it easy for me to explain how I reached my recommendation.
Identify the problem. This is where you explain the problem situation. Keep asking “Why?” to continue diving deeper to discover the root cause of the problem.
Determine solution criteria. Define the goals and objectives the solution must satisfy. These might include staying within a certain cost level or time frame.
Generate potential solutions. Brainstorm all possible solutions. Depending on the complexity of the problem, it may be important to include subject matter experts in this step.
Analyse each potential solution. Analyse each potential solution against the criteria (goals and objectives). Which solution makes the most sense based on your constraints such as budget, personnel resources and time? I sometimes create a table that lists each solution and each criterion with check marks or brief comments to rate each solution against all the various criteria.
Select the best solution. Based on your evaluation, choose the best solution and why it makes the most sense.
Determine an implementation plan. Determine how the recommended solution could be implemented and tracked for success. This is the “who, when, where and how” description. If possible, include cost and time estimates.
Document the information. Include the information from steps one through six in a one-page document (absolutely no more than two pages!). Keeping your document short will force you to carefully think through the situation and get right to the point.
Meet with your boss. Most managers are short on time, so putting your information into a concise document makes it easier when you meet to discuss your ideas.
Going through this process isn’t always easy, but by following this model, the process will become ingrained in your brain and, over time, you’ll be able to think through these steps quickly and easily.
Next time, don’t bring a problem to your manager, use the rational decision-making model and bring the solution instead.