In the past few months, I have been using problem boxes to keep my business’ clients and team members focused on the important issues.
What is a Problem Box?
A problem box is a simple and effective way to isolate a specific problem and stay focused on solving it at that point in time, or to come back to it in the future. All the data is put into the problem box, organized, and then used to find the best solution. The better the input data, the more effective the solution will be.
Why do I need to use a Problem Box?
Large corporations spend months, even years, putting data into problem boxes; paying top executives to crunch the data and design solutions for their board of directors to review. Small businesses tend to solve problems on the fly. Neither of these solutions is optimal. When you invest a lot of time, the data gets blurred and as a result, the solution becomes compromised and in some cases unnecessary, due to other changes in the company. Solving problems quickly tends to produce patch type solutions and your business starts to look like one big band-aid.
How can I use a Problem Box?
Let’s say, for example, your website isn’t generating enough traffic. Gather all the data you can quickly and put it into one document. Then, get a brief outside opinion from key members on your team and anyone else’s feedback that you value. State the problem clearly, give them a link to the page, and ask for some input. In the case of a low traffic web page, it would be wise to list your current promotional efforts related to the page and add links to the collaterals or an outline of what is being done at present.
Bonus: Once you have clearly defined a problem box in a conversation, you can easily gauge other people’s understanding of it by how close their responses in conversation relate to the actual problem. Most people are 2 to 3 levels removed from the actual problem. This means you need to adjust the conversation by refocusing people on the matter at hand. Now, if it’s your superior that is digressing, you will want to sandwich the adjustment by acknowledging their comment, suggesting your ‘idea’, and asking for their thoughts. Simple: Acknowledge their idea, suggest your ‘idea’, and ask for their thoughts.
When do I use a Problem Box?
You should use a problem box for any situation that arises in which you cannot definitively determine which decision will lead to the continued success of your company.
TAKE ACTION AND IMPLEMENT
- Write down the 3 biggest problems you face in your business.
- Ask yourself how much time you spent solving them in the past month, in relation to the time you have spent on other tasks.
- Clearly identify each problem and list all the related items, and email the information to key members of your team, along with 3 trusted friends.
- Stop any and all activities you and your business perform that are not critical to your daily operations. Minimize all your company’s other activities as much as possible – close for two days (or more if you can) to achieve this , tell your clients you are overhauling a major system [aka holding a company wide meeting to solve your problem boxes].
- Identify the best solution for each of your three biggest problems, design an action plan to make the necessary changes, and implement them as quickly as possible.