“Houston, We Have a Problem”

Business Edge-smart growth strategies-marciaThis is the famous line from the movie Apollo 13 as Tom Hanks reports a major technical problem back to the Houston base.

It’s not just astronauts who discover a problem that can result in a major crisis. Business, government and community leaders also encounter problems every day that have the potential to affect their customer / client / citizen’s satisfaction and ultimate survival.

One way to solve a complex, no easy fix problem, is to play Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes, perhaps the most famous fictional detective, was quite ingenious in solving “whodoneit” crimes. He always asked a series of insightful questions to make sure he fully understood the situation before he tried to solve the crime.

Playing Sherlock Holmes

Like Holmes, you need to fully understand the problem before you and your team can solve it. You start problem-solving by defining the “real” problem. You do this using the 5 “W” questioning technique.

  • Who questions help to identify the major players.
  • What questions seek specific information about the problem.
  • When questions focus on a time or a date or a point in a sequence of events.
  • Where questions try to pinpoint a specific place or location.
  • Why questions are typically used to clarify the underlying causes of the problem.

Here is how a recent client, a government-funded entity that provides educational resources to a variety of agencies, played Sherlock Holmes. The focus of this staff retreat program was to build strong and lasting customer relationships. The problem the group was trying to solve was:

When we make sales calls how can we better understand our customer’s needs so that we can then better connect our services with their needs?

The 5 “W” Questions

These are the questions the agency’s business development people developed for their next sales call to better connect the agency’s services with customer needs.


…comes to your agency for help?

…do you receive your funding from?

…is your future target client population?


…are your agency’s goals for this year?

…kinds of services do you provide your clients?

… is your biggest challenge in serving your clients?


… is the best time to call on you?

…do you meet with your clients?

… are your recruiting events?


…do you find educational resources for your clients?

…have you had the most success in meeting your client’s educational needs?


…are they having difficulty with our procedures?

…do you think your clients are not following up?

[su_box title=”SMART MOVES TIP” style=”glass” box_color=”#5226ff”]Whomever said, “Successful people are simply people who learn to solve their problems … they are not people without problems,” was right on target. So next time someone in your com­pany or agency, or professional practice says, “We have a problem,” first, take a deep breath. Then bring together the people who know the issue best and challenge them to develop creative solutions thru the 5 “W” questions. Have you played “Sherlock Holmes” with your staff to solve a problem that was affecting your customer’s satisfaction? How did you solve the problem? [/su_box]

My Motto Is:

If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. Therefore, MOVE outside of your comfort zone; that’s where the MAGIC happens.” To bring that magic to your leadership and business, subscribe to Marcia’s monthly Execubrief: Business Edge- Smart Growth Strategies with insights, inspiration and intelligence on how to build great businesses that matter- those that do well and do good.

Did You Know That a New Kind of SMARTS is needed?
75% of leaders are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle people problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust. – Center for Creative Leadership. Do you want to boost your emotional and social intelligence and be a more effective leader? Let me help you do it!

Marcia Zidlehttp://www.smartmovescoach.com
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!




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