When I was a team member, I used to escalate a problem to my manager with at least five different possible ways of handling it. This not only saved the manager’s time, it also helped me in finding ways to tackle difficult situations on the job.
No doubt it was valuable to his manager that Tanmay identified possible solutions to the problem. What I find even more valuable is that he identified many “possible ways of handling it.”
Identifying and exploring alternative solutions is particularly important in teamwork. Even with the best planning, problems or issues (a.k.a. “curve balls”) arise routinely during the lifespan of team projects. Curve balls are not entirely unexpected, but we seldom know in advance when one will arrive or how it will curve.
When faced with a new curve ball, an individual team member could attempt to formulate a solution based on their lone perspective. This practice may be expedient, but it misses out on a number of benefits of teamwork.
A better strategy is for the team member to follow Tanmay’s model by identifying multiple options, discussing those solution alternatives with the others, and jointly arriving at a course of action. The main benefits of this approach are:
- identifying and verbally describing solution alternatives helps to ensure that the problem itself is fully understood;
- discussions often reveal additional information and implications relevant to the alternative solutions;
- the time it takes to communicate will allow for more considered examination of alternatives;
- collaboration can help teams tweak and improve the ultimate solution;
- team members will more fully understand and support the ultimate solution;
- the shared experience of overcoming obstacles helps to build trust among team members and promotes even closer collaboration in the future.
Not every problem requires broad collaboration, making it important to distinguish minor issues from more significant curve balls. When curve ball do appear, remember to get your team mates engaged so that your project can realize the full benefits of teamwork to solve problems.