Fixing problems, setting the scene is crucial: find your sponsor

Problems are there to be fixed. It is as easy as that! There are multiple occasions that it doesn’t feel like that. During my facilitations and coaching sessions I noticed at least three elements needed to make problem solving projects successful.  One pre-condition needs to be true though: being trained in the right problem solving techniques (Kepner-Tregoe).

Today, element number one: Clear Sponsorship

Do you recognize the following situations?

  • No resources (experts) available to support your data gathering phase
  • Lack of visibility and importance in the organisation
  • No clear view on what success looks like
  • Project that is dragging on
  • The question in your mind: “hey, is it only me that is caring about this issue?

Like in any project, problem solving projects need an owner/sponsor too. Without an owner/sponsor (or client if you like), you will probably get lost in your journey and you are confronted with the sketched situations.sponsorship

What is a sponsor? The MAN: the person (m/f) with Means, Authority and Need around the problem. Therefore, identifying the sponsor is the first crucial step when starting your assignment. With the sponsor, also called problem owner, you would like to perform a situation appraisal. Address the following items, and make a summary at the end of your conversation.

  1. Assess the situation:
    • What is the exact issue you will be working on
    • What activities have already been done?
    • What evidence is gathered so far?
    • What will success look like?
  2. Clarify the need:
    • Why is this issue at this moment a concern?
    • What is the importance of this issue being fixed? What if it is left unresolved?
    • What is the current status of the issue (severity)?
    • Why is your help needed at this time? What do they expect from you?
  3. Set the expectations:
    • At the end, what do I need to have accomplished?
    • What is in and out of scope?
    • What will be the timeframe of your efforts?
    • What support will be available (from the sponsor and the organisation)?
  4. Plan involvement
    • How do we communicate and how often?
    • Who is responsible for approving decisions and plans?
    • Who else need to be involved/informed?
    • Where will you be situated during the problem solving project?

Getting an answer to these questions, is providing you a clear picture of the situation at hand. Not only for you, but also the problem owner knows what to expect. Clear direction and transparency has been gained. So before you begin, take the time and schedule an intake interview. It is helpful to have this question list prepared, added with your own, and bring it along to the meeting. Obtaining mutual understanding on what you can and will expect from each other is essential for future success. This could also mean you discover a different owner would be a better option, rather than the initial chosen. Better discuss upfront rather than finding out half way.

Last but not least – keep in touch with your sponsor! For both a necessity with a great outcome.

Next episode, element number 2 – the dedicated team.

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