Jul 212011

Solving Problems Together

Solving Problems Together

Last week, I started a series of new posts about our core values (a new tag in the tag cloud for this series) at Return Path.  Read the first one on Ownership here.

Another one of our core values is around problem solving, and ownership is intrinsically related.  We believe that all employees are responsible for owning solutions, not just surfacing problems.  The second core value I’ll write about in this series is written specifically as:

We solve problems together and always present problems with potential solutions or paths to solutions

In terms of how this value manifests itself in our daily existence, for one thing, I see people working across teams and departments regularly, at their own initiative, to solve problems here.  It happens in a very natural way.  Things don’t have to get escalated up and down management chains.  People at all levels seem to be very focused on solving problems, not just pointing them out, and they have good instincts for where, when, and how they can help on critical (and non-critical) items.

Another example, again relative to other workplaces I’ve either been at or seen, is that people complain a lot less here.  If they see something they don’t like, they do something about it, solve the problem themselves, or escalate quickly and professionally. The amount of finger pointing tends to be very low, and quite frankly, when fingers are pointed, they’re usually pointed inward to ask the question, “what could I have done differently?”

The danger of a highly collaborative culture like ours is teams getting stuck in consensus-seeking.  Beware!  The key is to balance collaboration on high value projects with authoritative leadership & direction.

A steady flow of problems are inherent in any business.  I’m thankful that my colleagues are generally quite strong at solving them!