The team was stuck. The members kept on saying “we haven’t got our chip breakage testing finished. We keep getting inconsistent results. Shipping from some cities, breakage is slightly better than how we do it now, and from other cities it is not quite as good. Also, consumers in some cities like a little more breakage and some like a little less. So we cannot recommend this new way of loading trucks until we are really sure. So we are continuing our testing”.

Senior management had been waiting for over two years for the team to come forward with a recommendation on the vendor’s proposed new method . $12 Million savings were hanging in the balance and some frustration was building with lack of progress. Another year was looming.

Here is what happened. In answer to “What’s stopping us from making the recommendation today?“ the first replies “we do not have our breakage testing finished” and “we are unsure which breakage level consumers prefer”.  After asking the same question several more times, another answer finally emerged “we are afraid to make the recommendation without being completely sure; we are afraid of being accused of being risky and wrong by senior management”.

This revelation led to the creative challenge: “How might we write the recommendation so that it explains the risk and asks management to share the risk with us?”

The recommendation was approved the next day with $12 Million to the bottom line immediately!

This week’s Minsight: When the creative question “What’s stopping us?“ is repeatedly asked, obvious facts are forthcoming at first and then unexpected and more hidden or subconscious facts follow.  As a leader, try to make it safe for people to say what really is on their mind so that accurate solutions can more quickly be implemented.