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Solving problems as a team

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If two heads are better than one, then a whole team must be brilliant, right? Let's just say the possibility exists—but it depends on how well the team works together. Teams can come up with fantastically effective and innovative solutions; or they can waste a lot of time going around in circles, never coming to agreement, and losing everyone's interest along the way. And what was that problem they were going to solve, anyway?

Problem solving as a team is a drastically different task than simply coming up with as solution on your own. The skill set and expertise of an entire group can be combined to build the best solution possible, although this lends itself to distraction, team dynamics issues and leadership failures.

When considering a team response to an issue it is important that those affected by the problem be part of the collaboration to fix it. They will have the most intimate knowledge of the problem at hand.

The team must then have a problem solving meeting, that is open, flexible and structured around the problem solving process. There should be no more than 10-12 people in any team or collaboration effort.

Near the start of discussions the team has to understand its level of control over the solution: no control, influence, or control. By understanding what sort of control the group has over the solution they can better taper their expectations or goals. This would also be the time to add group member that can increase that level of control for a better result.

Every individual has his or her own unique way of solving problems and making decisions. Without a unified approach, a team will be pulled in different directions by the individual needs of the group. The team leader needs to determine how decisions should be made, and seek consensus support for each decision.

Consensus support does not mean all decisions are made by consensus however the entire team must be in consensus support of the solution no matter how that decision was made. Why? Because lack of support will undermine the implementation. Team members will find reasons to disagree with the solutions. They may seek opportunities to express lack of loyalty to the team and the decisions made.

Once the solution has been decided the team leader should assign responsibilities and authority, and consistently provide feedback. This will also keep team members accountable for their work. Accountability can get lost in a team solution unless you, the leader, make it a point to keep on top of what is happening.

Once all the key actions have been identified, it's time to stop talking and get moving. A team that has been involved from start to finish is going to be much more committed to implementation than a team that has been given the solution as a mandate.

Your team won’t know if a problem is fully solved unless the solution is being followed for a while and it can be verified that the problem is fixed. To do this the team will need to monitor progress and be sure the solution did not create another problem. Use feedback to assess whether or not your plan is working and to confirm the solution is effective.

Continue to collect data to verify that the problem is truly being solved. The team that created and implemented the solution should also be responsible for tracking and analyzing the data surrounding their solution.

Overall the implementation of a team to solve a problem is a great strategy that is bound to give great results!

If you find yourself often working in teams to solve problems why not check out the Solving problems as a Team course provided by the EAP?

Not a team player? No problem! There are a plethora of courses that you might find interesting or useful in your day to day life! Keep your brain busy during this time of uncertainty and continue to learn by using the resources available!