Solutioning

Written by Grant Heinrich, 14 May 2020

The Challenge

While most experts wish to add value and are typically responsive to inbound requests for their expertise in implementing solutions to problems, all too often they don’t venture beyond the “technical brief” to learn of the underlying business requirements that require quantifiable improvement. Many experts tell us that this is the responsibility of those providing the brief and that they are often left in the dark as to what business outcomes are being sought – or that the individual(s) or departments engaging them are already set on a particular solution and do not welcome further inquiry on the part of the experts. As such, even while trying to deliver what has been asked of them, solutions often miss the mark. They might also be perceived as lacking pragmatism (or being too idealistic), or being too costly (as the value of the return on investment is undefined and not measured/verified). The expert often ends up wearing the blame even if they did exactly what was asked of them – since it is often the less-informed non-experts driving the process of solving. With artful solutioning skills – such as those provided in this module – experts can ensure that solutions better address both technical and business requirements and that stakeholder expectations are carefully managed throughout the process.

The Content

In this pod session, your team member discussed and explored with their fellow podsters:

  • A 4-stage consulting/solutioning framework that can be applied to any area of expertise – Discovering Requirements, Shaping and Proposing Solutions, Implementing Solutions, Evaluating Impact and Learnings. It is likely that experts apply some of these steps intuitively but rarely do they do so comprehensively. Being more thorough – and balancing a structured approach with being fluid and adaptive – ensures greater consistency of on target implementations yielding quantifiable business improvement as well as a more rewarding experience for all stakeholders.

  • Since the whole approach is informed by the quality of the questions asked in the discovery phase, participants are provided with – and get to practice – some tried and tested questioning frameworks designed to get to the heart of underlying business issues as well as fleshing out appropriate measures to be used in evaluating solutions’ value add. They are provided with a Discovery Worksheet which prompts them to ask the right questions and document the relevant information at the outset of any proposed or requested solution and which can be used to subsequently verify solution impact.

The Punchlines

  • “Solutions” have no inherent value. They merely derive their value from problems they solve or results they produce. Most experts have been schooled in particular methodologies and practices but may be less accustomed to taking outcomes-focused approaches (as oppose to process- or methodology-centric approaches). This is often at the heart of why their attempts to address business requirements often results in frustrated or underwhelmed business stakeholders. Clearly technical discovery remains essential yet, in and of itself, it remains incomplete if measurable business requirements have not been sufficiently unearthed along with the development of an agreed evaluation strategy.

  • Experts may worry that they lack enough fluency in business concepts to open up such conversations and, as a result, prefer to stay within the safer confines of the technical world where they are the undisputed knowledgeable authorities. Yet the questions we introduce to them can be effectively deployed without reliance on prior deep business acumen and will, in fact, still generate insight amongst stakeholders as well as fast-track the expert’s acquisition of the relevant business information.

  • Experts may also be wary about signing up to delivering measurable business improvements as their solution’s total success may to various extents be dependent on numerous other variables – e.g. new behaviours on the part of those operating the new system; adequate funding, leadership support and commitment, etc. The approach we introduce to them encourages “contracting” with other key stakeholders to ensure that all necessary contributions to the successful implementation of a holistic solution are identified and the requisite commitments from relevant parties secured.