Teamwork is something that is often challenging, and a lot of it can depend on skill sets and personalities, which are often hard to manage. Teamwork is always required, but it's especially important when you have to solve a problem. So, how do you work together to effectively problem solve?
This guide will use the example of solving the problem of a road map feature that is going to miss the deadline and how to resolve it.
We have all heard the expression "too many cooks in the kitchen," which means these are too many people doing too many things to actually execute and problem solve effectively. As an example, if you have three people with the same skill set but different focus, your problem have too many cooks in the kitchen. Teamwork really means that you do need many cooks, but you also need the right cooks in order to execute.
How do you get the right cooks in the kitchen? For the example in this guide we need to understand:
Who is creating the feature on the road map? The answer is probably someone in engineering.
Who is selling the product or solution when it is ready? The answer is probably someone in sales.
Who is launching the product? The answer is probably someone in marketing.
However, you do not need the entire sales, marketing, and engineering departments to be working with you to solve this issue. You just need the right people (probably one or two) from each department to work with you and ensure you have buy-in from decision makers after you come up with a solution with your core team of "cooks."
You may own the road map in this case, but you do not own the entire solution to the problem. You need to make sure you are actively listening (check out my active listening guide for more tips) to your team and not just hear them but actually listen to what they are saying and consider their ideas.
Do not take the attitude that you are in charge and have the final decision, even if you do. You must work with your team to come up with a solution that is best for the company and the customer in the end.
This can be a physical space or an online space, but everyone needs to feel welcome. If you are meeting in person, that means arranging chairs and tables an O or a U shape so people can see each other and everyone is equal. If you create rows or spaces where people are looking at the backs of heads or feel like they are in the back of the room and someone else is in the front, that is a problem and will make people feel as though they are not as important as others.
If you create an online space, everyone needs to have the same permissions so they can actively collaborate. If you make someone an editor and someone else only a viewer, the viewer in the online space is not going to be able to actually share their ideas to help effectively solve a problem.
You know that Aretha Franklin song, and it rings true here. People need to respect one another, and people need to be respected. That means you should not encourage talking over people, which means you shouldn’t talk over people. It is important that you set the example.
Effectively problem solving is done in a team environment where people feel valued and respected. You need to set the bar high. This means listening, not talking over others, and not shooting down ideas even if something is not going to work. In the example of adjusting the road map, suppose someone says that we should just launch anyway without the new feature. Even if that is simply not an option, the first thing you should do is encourage the person to share why and how that might work. Everyone needs to be heard.
Often times, when you are problem solving you are moving a mile a minute. Everyone is coming up with new ideas, and you need to get organized. Everything you are talking about needs to be written down so it can be properly organized. If you have a working meeting for an hour one day, make sure all the ideas get organized. Then in your next meeting you can methodically hash through them.
Brainstorming sessions are great, but in order to solve a problem you need to eventually have a solution. Getting to that solution requires some brainstorming, but that shouldn't last forever. You need to have a plan to work through what was brainstormed so you can solve the problem.
Effective problem solving isn’t easy, especially when you are collaborating (see my guide, Internal Collaboration for User Insights). But many heads are better than one, so it is key that you work together.
Finding the right stakeholders, leaving your attitude at the door, creating a collaborative space, respecting others, and writing everything down will help ensure you can work together to effectively problem solve.