How to be an impactful leader focused on problem-solving, with Dan Staresinic
Problem-solving is an important skill to have that applies to almost every position in any industry.
For Dan Staresinic, VP of Marketing & Communications at Siemens, his career journey has been very diverse, but he has been able to navigate through bottlenecks and achieve goals through a couple of key problem-solving approaches.
“One of those is the Theory of Constraints. Basically, it’s a problem-solving framework. And it forces a reflection on what is the goal of the system,” said Dan in our Intent Data Exchange podcast. “You subordinate everything else to getting the most throughput through that constraint.”
But what if a company can’t identify its obstacles? How can its employees focus on their efforts and work collaboratively?
Let’s break down a couple of the problem-solving lessons Dan shared to answer these questions.
Understanding the Theory of Constraints
A constraint is anything that prevents the system from achieving its goal. Every chain has a weak link; every company has a bottleneck. If they can identify it and make it the centerpiece of their strategy, they’re optimizing to the highest degree.
For example, in a manufacturing facility, a common misstep is to give equal focus to all machines. But no machine will function at the same rate as the one next. The key is to focus on the lowest-performing machine.
This problem-solving method offers an alternative view for productivity and process improvement and can be applied to any department. Unfortunately, some organizations have difficulties identifying the constraint.
Identifying the constraint to problem-solve
Why, then, do so many companies struggle to find their constraint? It simply isn’t the easiest thing to identify because constraints can be internal or external to the process.
“The best advice I’ve ever taken on problem-solving is that more than half of solving any problem is precisely defining it."
- Dan Staresinic, VP of Marketing & Communications, Siemens
Dan’s advice: Start with the goal.
“The constraint is the most important, most precious asset. If I want to view the salespeople’s time [as the constraint], their hours in a day as our most precious resource, I quite naturally want to do anything I can to make sure not one minute of that time is wasted on that lead,” said Dan.
In an artistic pursuit like improvisation, it’s common to focus on what’s working instead of what isn’t — a strategy that is in stark contrast to the Theory of Constraints. This is where problem-solving comes in: What is the actual goal of the artistic profession?
If it’s to make the most people laugh, you’ll have an easier time deciding whether your initial line of reasoning needs to be adjusted.
But what happens when multiple stakeholders each identify a different constraint as the most significant problem? In a company of 300,000 employees, conflict of opinion is bound to come up. What’s the next move?
Getting out of your comfort zone to solve problems
The truth is that your constraint won’t always feel like the right choice. For some employees, it might feel obvious to focus all of their attention on machine A. For another team — machine B. But does either option solve the problem for the entire company? Does either option help accomplish a goal efficiently? In the end, it might be machine C that aligns closest to what the organization needs.
“What we really need is to define the problem in such a clear way that we can both look at it and actually feel a little bit uncomfortable. It doesn’t squarely fit into my zone, and it doesn’t squarely fit into your zone. But it actually is the problem that needs to be solved,” said Dan.
When most people problem-solve, they naturally only look at it from a single point of view. This can cause misalignment and disagreements. True cross-functional collaboration is the only way to get at the problem’s heart.
Related resource: Unlocking bottlenecks: How Intent data influences change
“You will not find everybody agreeing on where the constraint is. And they’ve all got their own way of interpreting the world, and that their own understanding of what their job is,” said Dan.
Self-awareness of individual goals, team initiatives, and the company’s main objectives can help bring attention to the constraint and how to solve it. To learn more about effective problem-solving and accelerating growth, check out the following must-reads suggested by Dan and listen to the full podcast episode: