The boss not giving us enough time or money to work on a problem is a big, big handicap. Yet, the boss may further handicap the process by saying, “we can’t do that.” The ‘that’ seldom refers to some law of physics that can’t be violated. Instead, the ‘that’ often refers to some real or imagined set of constraints involving the customer or the process or the product.
It doesn’t take long in an environment like this before the boss doesn’t even have to say a thing. See someone ask for money the first time and get turned down would leave anyone reluctant to ask a second time. See someone bring up product re-design the first time and get shot down leaves everyone gun-shy about ever bringing up that again. Seeing someone else propose a frank discussion with a difficult customer the first time and get nasty looks from customer service, well, you get the idea.
Here is the way to avoid these totally unnecessary impediments to problem-solving. That is, it is a two-step process. These two steps are best done on different days (and possibly in different rooms and with different people).
Step #1 – List all options that physics allows based on the mechanics of the system that you are tasked with figuring out. Culling of an idea that is not pleasant is not allowed at that time. Culling of an idea is only allowed when that idea violates some law of physics.
Step #2 – Let the boss pick a physics-allowed option(s) based on economics, the customer, the process, the product or even a Ouija board, if that is their style. If the boss doesn’t pick one of the physics-allowed options, then the system automatically reverts to status quo.
There is almost no chance of understanding the problem and thus fixing it if you start with Step 2, or if you mix the steps together.