Solving operational problems

Solving operational problems is tricky. Running an offsite or away day is one way to solve them.

Bring the people together

Sometimes the problem can be solved just by putting all the concerned parties in the room together. It’s certainly a good first step!

Make it cross-functional

So that means sometimes you need people across department boundaries. Sales and production. Marketing and data. To solve operational problems go cross-functional if you need to.

Pull the problem apart

Once everyone is in the room together you need to:

  • Define the problem
  • Work out what your outcome is
  • Discover the gap between them
  • Find pragmatic ways to close the gap

Some of the methods I have used in the past include

  • Mapping the process
  • Creating a matrix to plot the significant elements. So for risk management a matrix graphing possibility of risk against impact would work. For one client with a highly politicised environment, we looked at their management initiatives and plotted them against “likelihood of getting positive press” and “will make the boss happy”. Once you know what the gap is– we define the matrix!
  • Draw a diagram of where things work (or don’t)
  • Choose a metaphor and draw it out, then make it concrete
  • Use open space technology to nut out the data
  • Brainstorm with post-it notes
  • Examine how others have solved this issue – often from outside of your industry.

Devise a strategy

Whether you have two hours or two days, participants need an agreed strategy.

And from the agreed strategy comes a set of agreed actions. These must be written up, and each given an owner and a deadline.

For absolute best results the actions become put of your regular work-in-progress (WIP) meetings. Actions cannot just be dropped without discussion.

The first meeting must conclude with an action plan. And an appointment to reconvene. Ninety days between meetings seems to be a comfortable time. At 90 days we still remember what happened at the last offsite. So book in the next offsite now!