Thinking about a plan redesign any time soon? Experienced designers will advise you, tell you and urge you to start with a really good problem definition. (Did I ever mention how important a good problem definition is?) The problem is, they don't often tell you what a good problem definition involves, what it will offer you and how to get there. So here goes.
Let's look at a poor example. "Our salary structure hasn't been updated in five years. We need to determine whether our pay rates are competitive." Pretty common approach -- candid and concrete -- so why isn't it good enough?
(Some metaphors work, some almost work. See what you think about this one.) That problem statement is akin to saying, "We haven't changed the light bulbs in five years. We need to determine whether we have enough light." Think about that one. Accomodating dim lighting for five years will call for a lot more problem solving for a family than just getting some GEs from Walgreens. What about all of the fallout in the family's relationships, health, housekeeping and so on? These challenges have to be addressed in the solution, too, because they are the reasons you have light bulbs in the first place.
At its heart, a sound problem statement makes it crystal clear why it's important to fix the problem. For instance, pointing out that salaries may not be competitive doesn't explain what that out-of-date salary structure is doing to your business. Executives, who will be funding your efforts with money and FTEs, deserve those insights when you ask them to agree that the project is worth it.
A sound problem statement is not completed in the first project meeting. It involves an analysis of:
Who's being affected? In the salary structure example, probably all employees to some extent, but there are also specifics. Don't you have some real sore spots? For example, other companies beating you to hot talent? Executives and managers losing important contributors? Customers waiting too long for help? Managers dispirited about having to lead without being able to reward? New employees hired into the top third of the range? (See how much more concrete, compelling and strategic the problem statement is becoming?)
What's the breadth and depth of the problem? What will be improved when it's fixed?
When did the problems start? How long will they last? What will happen if you do nothing? What will happen if you run into a financial limitation (not enough money available to make salary adjustments)? Can improvements be made in stages? How far out can you push the expense?
Where? Has it affected all your locations, divisions, jobs, equally? Why is it different in some locations? Are there economic or regulatory issues by location?
Why? Why? Why? Why take the time on this when there are so many other things you could be investing your time in? Most important, what will your business look like if you solve the problem?
The other practical reason for a solid problem definition? As we all know, projects go on and on and on. There's nothing that's better for reorienting a group of people who are losing their bearings than a solid problem definition. Count on it. I know I do.
Our work is an 8 step problem solving process. Learn how to lead when you identify problems and achieve compensation design solutions with our popular eBook, Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication. Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP collaborated with Ann Bares and Dan Walter to bring the book into the world. You can download it at www.everythingiscommunication.com. Margaret is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, Margaret was a Principal with Towers Watson.