The business world is full of axioms – phrases or expressions recognized by their repeated utterances. They become so common that business people accept them as law or, at the very least, don’t scrutinize them for improvement opportunities.
One such axiom is “bring solutions, not problems.” This axiom is designed to prevent employees from simply dumping problems on their managers and leaving those problems for managers to figure out.
Managers rightly expect their employees to not just identify problems, but to have the initiative to figure out how to solve those problems. Perhaps the employee may need some managerial assistance or resources or approval but, still, the employee should have the intellect to think through the issue and come up with a proposed solution, set of options, or some recommendations instead of just dumping the problem like a pile of trash on the manager’s desk.
That’s all great, right?
However, “bring solutions, not problems” is incomplete. Let me elaborate…
The constantly changing nature of business – especially in procurement situations – means that not every problem should be an immediate priority. Not every opportunity for improvement should be seized right now, bumping other opportunities aside.
So, even if an employee brings solutions instead of problems, that doesn’t mean that the manager is going to (or should) let the employee loose to implement those solutions. One of the major challenges for managers today is the ubiquitous “competing priorities.” Sometimes, the last thing a manager needs is yet another priority to compete for the limited resources of his or her staff.
So, yes, bring solutions. But also bring the cost, risk, and/or urgency of the problem.
How much is the problem costing the company? Or how much time is the problem wasting? Or what risks does the problem pose? Or why would waiting to solve the problem be a bad idea?
Managers have the delicate job of juggling multiple tasks with a fixed number of resources. Adding one more task isn’t going to help the manager complete the tasks already in progress.
So, to accept more work for his/her team, the manager needs to know that it is worth spreading the resources a little thinner. Without knowing the cost, risk, and/or urgency of the problem, the manager cannot make an informed decision regarding whether the solution should be implemented and, if it should, when.
So even though “bring solutions, including the cost, risk, and or urgency of the problem, not just the problem” probably is too wordy of a phrase to become a popular axiom, it certainly is a practice that should be a part of the way every procurement department tackles emerging challenges.