Why You Should Stop Solving Problems

Much of a project team’s efforts focus on solving problems. Concerns run the gamut, from learning that critical equipment or other supplies will be delayed to questions about how end users are likely to react to a changed work environment. Nurturing the skills needed to troubleshoot such a wide variety of problems is important, and project leaders often lend their problem-solving talents to the Project Team’s thorniest issues. But if PMP®s really want to boost the capabilities of the team, it may be necessary for them to take a few steps back from the problem-solving function. In fact, there are several benefits that often sprout from a more hands-off approach to tackling obstacles.

It will help to develop better problem-solving skills within the team. If the senior members of the project office often take the most active role in helping the group unravel difficult situations, the less seasoned professionals may not have the opportunity to really hone the various competencies that contribute to rooting out the triggers behind project issues and developing workable solutions. Formal training is important, but tackling real-world problems is tremendously helpful in building strong skill sets. In addition, human nature may lead some in the group to happily sit on the sidelines while others with more assertive personalities suggest solutions. Gently pushing these sometimes timid team members to actively participate in the problem-solving process will help them be more confident in their skills.

It can promote more communication between stakeholders and business partners. Problem solving often requires the input and combined brain power of many different groups. By pulling back a bit on their own involvement in the troubleshooting phase, the leadership group can help to build more robust lines of communication between the various players within the project. It’s also an excellent technique for improving everyone’s ability to communicate effectively with a wider range of personalities and perspectives. As most Project Teams have a subset of recurring customer and collaborator groups, these stronger relationships will serve the team well not only in the near term but also far into the future.

It broadens the team’s set of problem-solving tools. Relying too heavily on the skills of just a few individuals could limit the types of solutions the Project Team implements. Encouraging input and ideas from a wider variety of individuals—each of whom will bring their own experiences, backgrounds, and preferences—will result in a team that’s capable of finding creative answers to even the most difficult of project problems. They may even discover entirely new ways to address issues that have cropped up repeatedly.

It helps break the Project Team out of inefficient ruts. It can be all too easy to continue solving new problems using old solutions, especially when resources are lean and the time to brainstorm is tight. Unfortunately, this habit usually translates into limited innovation and the potential that inefficiencies will continue to plague the team over the long term. By forcing the team into new territory once in a while, creativity can once again be the spark that improves processes and identifies more solutions that are efficient and cost effective.

It will champion the team’s skills to the organization’s leadership group. Few things raise the profile of the project office more effectively than stepping back and allowing the team to succeed at the individual level, using each person’s own ingenuity and hard work. As executives and others high up in the organization begin to recognize the capabilities of the broader team—not just its most senior members—they’ll be more willing to support the Project Team’s requests for resources and other efforts on future projects.

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