John Hunter has a post that is an answer to Frank Roche : No Problem Without a Solution. John quotes Taiichi Ohno “Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.”
Both sides have a valid point here. On one hand, it is the managers job to make sure that his team can learn to solve problems themselves and not just “pitch them over the wall” (as Frank answers John), its part of their growth.
On the other hand, employees hiding problems from the manager just because they don’t have a solution is a sure recipe for failure.
So what is the golden path?
I say “Having no solved problems is the biggest problem of all.”
Here at Typemock we have a process that I think solves both problems. At our clearings we are all asked “What doesn’t work” and who ever asks the question is required to try and solve it. Here the manager can guide the team member and show him how he can solve the problem, this is usually done by asking the right questions. as Frank says
It reminds me of when I used to ask when I was a kid, ‘Dad, how do you spell….” He’d say, did you look it up? He could have spelled it for me…or he could help me think through it. I always valued that he would have me look it up.
We also ask “What problems did you solve? What is working?” Here the team member can talk about problems they solved and get feedback from it. (So problems are not hidden). If no problems where solved that is the biggest problem
Dealing with Pitching
When I feel that a problem is pitched over the wall, I say “I need solutions not problems, how can we solve this? what are the possibilities”. Once there are a few possibilities that need choosing, it is my responsibility to actually make the choice, but there must be possibilities.
Finding Problems to solve
In either case, sometimes the team themselves, don’t know that there is a problem and every manager should make rounds and find places that need attention.