Taking action when People Identify Problems

We run across issues or find problems every day. Some of them can be handled immediately or in an ad-hoc manner. We need some standard framework for investigating and solving larger or more complicated problems. There are different schools of thought on how people bring problems and when and who should do the solutioning.

Just problems or problems that need solving

We want to create expectations about how action will be take when a problem is found. Our best teammates raise issues or expose problems in order to try and improve the situation.  This discussion is around this group.  

Other people raise issues or find problems as a way of delaying action or describing why things can't be done. They don't really intend to solve the problem. We will withhold further comments for another time.

Organizational Failure.

Some management don't want to acknowledge problems.  They don't want expose issues. They don't want to be exposed as having issues. Facts are friendly is not their mantra. Sometimes organizations punish those who identify or admit to problems. This is an illness beyond the scope of this article.

The response when a problem identified

People can discover problems and report them at any time.  It can be in meetings, in e-mail, chat or other channels.  We're going to look at 3 response strategies. I've used all of them or had them used on me at one time or another.


Don't bring me a problem unless you have a solution

This management mantra has been around for a long time.  The idea is that people can only raise concerns if they have a solution.  They can't throw out random problems or complaints.

I worked for someone who operated with this model. It was pretty frustrating when you were a new person or when you found problems outside your zone of control. 

You found it you own it with help.

The person who exposes the problem is tasked with solving the problem. The manager will say something like "great issue  get back to us on how we can solve this". There is no implied timeline or approach.

This is better than the previous approach because it allows for early exposure.  This approach can be modified to assign a SME or other resources to help with the issue. 

Add it to the backlog

This says that the team has an organized backlog of work items.  All identified items are added to the backlog and the prioritized on a regular basis.  This assumes that the team has an organized backlog and that they are not working on everything as it appears.  

Backlog items still often end up assigned to the one reporting the item in a variation of you found it you own it.

"Don't bring me an problem unless you have a solution"Encourages people to think through the issue. Limits problem identification to those that can solve the problem.  Fewer eyes on problems.
 Every raised issue is solved immediatelyNew team members opinions are devalued
  Problems may be surfaced late, after damage
"You raised it you own it"Exposes issues earlierPeople may not raise issues if they don't have time or expertise
 Others may get involved in solutioningCan teach people to stay quiet
"Create backlog item"Agile friendlyAll teams do not have a managed backlog
 Fits prioritization scheduleImplies a certain level of discipline
 Can chose when to analyze 


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