Jeff Dearduff advises companies to pay attention to problems, projects and people when putting problem-solving tools to work.

Final Approach

Commercial airline pilots go through an extensive checklist before they fasten their seatbelts for a scheduled flight. For instance, a lot of attention to detail has taken place in preparation for this rather routine event. The pilots check to make sure the airplane and its flaps are in proper position, ensure that the weather is cooperating and make sure the crew, under the direction of the captain, is well prepared.

However, a beautiful and uneventful flight can easily be spoiled by a poorly executed final approach. If the pilot isn’t flying at the right altitude or hasn’t dialed in the correct speed or fully communicated with the co-pilot, this otherwise successful mission could lead to a devastating ending.

As a manager of problems, projects and people (The Famous 3 Ps), you need to consider many things when approaching situations in your area of responsibility.

For starters, when facing a problem on the manufacturing runway, there are several choices to consider before taking the first steps toward a solution.

One option is to jump to conclusions and make rash decisions, which can create a quick result, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Or you can pass the problem off to someone else and hope for the best. Lastly, you can step back and put some problem-solving tools to work.

The last choice is the best one.

Whether you have had some formal training in total quality management (TQM) or Lean manufacturing, you probably have developed your own organized approaches to solving a problem. Brainstorming, investigating different options and bouncing things off of others will always yield the smarter solution, which will either land successfully or crash hard depending on the approach.

When dealing with a project at the plant, you have approach options here as well. You can wing it, which usually is a poor choice for any objective that involves critical elements such as a required return-on-investment (ROI).

Or you can implement the project management tools that you have used, learned or seen others carry out in the past. When deploying your project management tools and processes to an ROI project, your chances of landing on schedule and on budget are always higher. A serious approach toward planning, scheduling, procurement and execution can deliver the results that you and your company expect from the investment of time and money that are dedicated to the effort.

Now we move on to people. How you approach your people is probably the most critical of the 3 Ps.
Years ago, the old school way involved telling people what you expected from them and expecting them to follow through. Today, how you approach your people will make a difference between getting things done right and on time, or having to go back and do it again, probably by yourself. Because the workforce is much more sensitive today than ever before, you need to exercise caution in how you approach people.

For example, let’s say you have discovered a “problem” and approached it correctly using your TQM processes. This solution requires a “project” to be organized in order to solve the problem correctly.

Finally, you will need several people to execute the task successfully. Your approach to this “problem” will make or break the entire problem-solving effort.

To get the buy-in required, use a lot of tact and respect along with providing a plethora of information when communicating with your people to work on a specific project. Try not to give away all of the answers since that will only disengage them quickly. Allow the team to come up with some of the execution strategies on their own.

Whether you are a direct manager or are in a position where you need to get other departments or other managers to buy in to a solution, how well you communicate or sell your proposals will be a turning point in getting the project done correctly.

Have you ever witnessed someone going “old school” in today’s workplace on people that they need to get engaged? You know, that’s when you see some managers jumping in their employees’ faces as they demand or even threaten to make sure that the job is done right the first time. How’d that work out?

Have you seen anyone push their agenda too hard because of a rule or regulation only to lose touch with the people that they will eventually need to solve the problem?

That’s why common sense is the one golden rule that everyone should follow.

If you make your final approach with an abrasive attitude or a forceful tongue in a workplace situation that requires a group of people to work in a harmonious setting, you might want to put your tray table in its upward and locked position, put your head between your knees and hope to hear the sirens - because the hard crash is eminent.