Problem Solving - You Can't Let Your Problems Be A Problem

"The Measure of Success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year." - John Foster Dulles.

According to John C. Maxwell, author of 24 books and a regular speaker on the topic of Leadership and Problem Management, leaders with good problem solving ability demonstrate five qualities:-

1. They anticipate problems

2. They accept the truth

3. They see the big picture

4. They handle one thing at a time

5. They don't give up a major goal when they're down

In "The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader", Maxwell identifies the top leadership traits as character, charisma, commitment, communication, competence, courage, discernment, focus, generosity, initiative, listening, passion, positive attitude, problem-solving, relationships, responsibility, security, self-discipline, servanthood, teachability, and vision - and then defines them in ways that readers can absorb and utilize.

Let's see what arises if we quickly apply some ITIL best practice to Maxwell's five qualities ?

1. They anticipate problems - how can ITIL help with this ?
- Implement effective Help desk and Incident Management functions
- Allocate the right amount of resource to effectively deal with standard volume and where necessary peak volumes
- Know that things go wrong, ensure that the Problem Management function shares known errors with the Helpdesk and Incident management to avoid unnecessary repeat work

2. They accept the truth - how can ITIL help with this ?
- Deal with facts, not fiction
- Have meaningful management information produced from accurate tools
- Foster a 'no blame' culture, ensure that release management and change management processes are continuously improved

3. They see the big picture - how can ITIL help with this ?
- The radar is complete; configuration items, change requests, incident tickets, problems, new releases are all under control of ITIL processes
- Situation Assessments or Health Checks can be used to continually assess and then improve the wider operational effectiveness of the organization

4. They handle one thing at a time - how can ITIL help with this ?
- Incidents are prioritised effectively, based on service levels and business impact
- Root cause analysis and elimination within Problem Management enable the underlying cause of problems to be removed from the organization - so the next problem can then be dealt with

5. They don't give up on a major goal when they're down - how can ITIL help with this ?
- Risk based implementation planning
- Executive sponsorship of implementation activities aides continued support
- The results and benefits of previous ITIL activities have been 'sold' so well already that any current hiccup will be tolerated in the knowledge that this leader is driving the organization forward.

It seems that Maxwell's qualities of a leader are indeed complimentary to ITIL best practice, or at least ITIL best practice could support the type of leader who provides sponsorship to ITIL in their own organization. (a hint to all leaders).

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