How to Turn Every Business Challenge
into a Business
By James Dawson
businesses have challenges, regardless of how successful they are.
Some may experience challenges with communication, while others may
experience challenges with technology. Unfortunately, the underlying
problems in an organization often surface as employee complaints
directed at the managers or business owners. These employees are often
dedicated to the job, but not skilled in speaking business language.
Therefore, they don’t know how to offer solutions; they can only
express their concerns to their supervisors, which often come across
the employees don’t know how or aren’t empowered to find solutions
to the problems. But when you create and maintain a problem-solving
culture in your organization, you and your employees can transform
every business challenge into a business opportunity. Use the
following steps to empower your employees to find solutions to
Understand the Business Culture: As a
business owner or manager, you must realize that problems exist in
your business that you don’t know about and that your employees
aren’t telling you about. Businesses have a hierarchal organization
where the people on the top don’t think the same way as the people
on the bottom. So many times, especially with new employees, people
are afraid to speak up about their problems. To overcome this
challenge, talk to each employee, either in a group setting or
one-on-one, about the problems they see and experience.
realize that the problem-solving expertise already exists in house.
Your employees want to make the business work, and they have a vested
interest in making the systems run better. So while changes have
repercussions throughout an organization, the more experienced
employees within your business probably have the system knowledge to
make the changes work.
Encourage Employees to Identify Problems: As the
business manager or owner, you also must realize that you are the
decision maker, and before problems reach you, filtration takes place
at each level. Just telling your people to come to you with problems
won’t work because they simply won’t come. You must create a safe
environment for presenting problems. You may be surprised at how many
people, knowing they can present their concerns to you without
repercussions, actually come forward.
employees feel comfortable coming to you, coach them to narrow the
focus of their problem. Many times people start talking about their
problems and they keep expanding until they can’t control them. So
encourage people to narrow the focus, and identify one thing, in
fifteen words or less, that they can work on. Also, encourage the
employee to ask him or herself, “What’s within my control?” and
“What do other people control, and how do I partner with them?”
The main reason why problem solving often fails is because people
don’t identify the problem specifically enough. Use these questions
and initial conversations to develop a laser focus on the specific
Help Employees Identify a Specific Cause: Part of
identifying the cause of a specific problem comes from asking
questions. Encourage your employees to ask who, what, when, where,
why, and how questions; to ask the questions they think they know the
answers to, just to see how close they are; and to ask how other
people see the problem. Once they’ve asked the right questions and
nailed down the cause, they can list the alternatives.
alternative is to do nothing. This is always an alternative because
some problems within business are too costly to fix. When the
employees understand this, they are more likely to live with the
problem, be at peace, and not complain about it. Next is the best
alternative solution. But again, many times the best alternative is
too costly. That’s why you need to encourage employees to also
identify the second best alternative solution.
then need to think about an implementation plan that includes the
resources they’ll need, how they’ll implement it, who will be
affected, and how the plan will be monitored for success. These
details will be further developed as the employee devises their
Teach Employees to Develop a Business Case: The key to
creating a problem-solving culture in your organization is to
encourage employees to identify problems, identify solutions, and then
sell the idea to you and the other decision makers in the
organization. Essentially, you want them to develop a business case
for each problem they encounter. You can use the following business
case framework to guide your employees through the process of
developing their own:
The business case must be objective, strictly nuts
They must demonstrate how their case will make
things better, faster, or cheaper than what is currently done.
They must introduce the problem.
They must explain how much the problem costs the
They must state the cause, and offer their
With their suggestions, they should state what
each solution will cost and how much it will save.
They should state how their solution will be
implemented and how it will be monitored.
They must state their involvement.
employees to always present conservative expectations. If they don’t
have budgetary authority, have them talk to the person who does.
Encourage them to find a champion with budget control who is willing
to work with them and support their plan.
on the organization, this presentation may be formal or informal.
Power point presentations or verbal presentations are usually
satisfactory, but if they’re asking the decision makers to spend a
million dollars, employees better make it worth their while.
business case must be objective, employees need to realize that their
presentation must have passion. To win over the decision makers,
employees must be sincere, they must feel strongly about their
solution, and they must clearly communicate their feelings to the
decision makers. Employees need to directly ask the decision makers
for their support, and give them a call to action. Make sure your
employees know not to leave the meeting without a commitment. If the
decision makers aren’t sure, employees need to get a commitment for
another meeting. If the decision makers are sure, then employees
should ask for an implementation date.
and Constructive Feedback: As a
decision maker, you cannot get hung up on the details of any
employee’s presentation. Rather, you should focus on the overall
plan. And definitely don’t hammer the presenter, because all the
other employees in the organization will see it and you’ll destroy
the very culture you’re trying to create.
tell the employee making the presentation what strengths you saw in
his or her ideas. Give constructive feedback and make suggestions for
improvement, even if you didn’t buy into the plan. And if you see
any holes in the presentation, ask for more information.
Problems in the Future: Employees
at all levels should be encouraged to participate in building business
cases from the problems they encounter. Whether your organization has
one employee or one thousand, just imagine the effect of converting
every one of them into a problem solver. When you empower the people
closest to the problems to take action and make change, the results
can be quite astonishing. By using this process for creating a
business culture that encourages problem solving at all levels, you
can turn every issue that arises in your organization into a business
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