Conventional Struggles in Operational Problem Solving Processes

Conventional Struggles in Operational Problem Solving Processes

Initial Impulses

As soon as an issue or challenge arises typically one of two disorganized things happens in Operational Problem Solving Processes: Telephones run hot, or email ping pong is started to create relief. Because this is however such a hardship it seems a miracle that employees and managers do not swallow challenges in daily business in operations and occasionally still force themselves through the just touched and in the following further described painful process.


Chat hardly gives a chance to engage in critical discussions amongst 2 and makes it impossible amongst more. Chronological avalanches of text forces participants to start at the top and swallow their valuable contributions. Participants are not able to structure, intensify and prioritize valuable thought strands along the way. Eventually everything needs to be reread but still no clear basis for decision is set out. Not surprisingly this does not lead to useful results and it is decided to set up a (video) meeting upon internal experts to tackle the issue.

(Video) Meeting

A first damper at this point is that not only those experts, but also a timely timeslot need to be found and coordinated that suit all the packed calendars. Complexity increases significantly by diversity of locations and time zones.

Also, people don’t know what they don’t know. Thus, they only include lessons learned and experts that they are aware of. This spiral effect reinforces knowhow silos.

However, once a date is found finally free and efficient discussions can start! – or not?

Such meetings are sometimes necessary, yet often overused to the detriment of the participants. Synergies (productivity and effectiveness) suffer once a certain number of participants is exceeded, even though the level of expertise rises! No wonder Jeff Bezos has his Pizza Rule and Elon Musk encourages to leave meetings.

The image of a packed meeting room comes to mind. Loud opinion leaders, participants that should be somewhere else and therefore also are mentally absent, potential language barriers, unprepared participants, rash on the spot replies, social loafing, uncoordinated and digressing discussions, … Time is limited, yet it takes up almost a whole meeting to understand the issue and to get everyone’s perspective on the matter. Then a follow up needs to be arranged. At this point there is still no clear structure and oversight on the actual pressing issue at hand.

Participants might know the status, yet the knowledge subsides quickly after creation. Time was invested, value was gained, but if it is not retained future efforts miss a head start. Often it is experienced that an issue has already been dealt with in another location or the past. Those lessons learned would have saved or reduced the painstaking and now redundant efforts.

What is missing? Managers lack oversight and control yet have frustrated employees and repressed operational problem solving processes. Johari recognizes and tackles this burden. Find out how in the next article!