Good managers solve problems. That’s why we hire them. That’s how we reward them. They identify deviations from the norm, figure out what needs to be done, fix it, and then looks for the next problem to solve. As a result, the organization is better off – or is it?
Let’s analyze what happens. A problem is merely a deviation from the norm. Solving it simply restores that norm. For example, the standard for the call center employee is to field 10 calls per hour. The employee is doing seven. The manager coaches the employee and soon the employees begins to field 10 calls per hour. Problem solved. Another success.
Now, let’s look at the same call center employee and think, what if the manager and the employee, working together, could raise the number of calls to 11 or 12 or 13? What if the call center employee, while fielding those same calls, could cross sell a new product? Wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t that raise the level of performance of the employee? Now imagine the supervisor did this with all his call center employees. Wouldn’t all the employees, supervisors, departments and company be better off by this?
The point is simply this: problem-solving alone is not enough. It merely restores the old order – the norm. If managers focus solely on fixing things, then they aren’t focusing on innovation. And innovation drives organizations forward toward a higher level of performance. And that’s what great managers should be doing. Problem solving is important, but the job of the manager is much more.