This 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]
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