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In this installment, you’ll learn steps you can take at your agency to create a culture of problem-solving. And you’ll learn to identify and work-through common roadblocks. Read on and discover how you can be part of a lasting and meaningful shift at your agency.


Simple steps for building a problem-solving culture

In the previous installment, Part 1 of Creating a Problem-Solving Culture at Your Center, you learned about Ron Dunn and some familiar challenges he experienced at his agency. Ron recognized the need for a problem-solving mindset. He identified the need, elicited support, and engaged his team as champions for the cause. An organization whose people feel empowered to suggest solutions and take an active part in their implementation behaves differently than other organizations. It takes effort to instill this type of culture and maintain it. It does not happen by accident.

Ron and other PSAP managers who have inspired similar results are alike in their approach. They recommend practicing the following on a daily basis:


Get honest feedback and do something with it.

Talk to your people, starting with the small stuff. Ask for their input on simple but important issues. Shifts hours and rotation, the interview process, policy and procedure are all great candidates.

Empower your team to make decisions.

Whenever possible, push decision-making down the hierarchy.

Make your team feel supported enough to come up with innovative ideas.

If they know their efforts will amount to something, and they see evidence of the changes they were a part of, they will continue to be part of the solution.

Ask regularly, “what do you think would work here?”

Allow people to come together and formulate novel approaches. Some centers have created a Policy Committee, a Morale Committee, a Scheduling Committee, and others to tackle the tough issues.

Don’t wait.

Even if you don’t have a champion at the top of the organization, you can still enroll your team in your ideas. Make it easy for decision makers to say "yes". Think of all their objections in advance, look at it from 360 degrees, and share how it will benefit them.


Embrace the challenges that come with culture shift
(there will be some)

The biggest impediments to a problem-solving culture can be the mindset of center leadership. As in Ron’s case above, absentee leaders or those who are just “doing time” until their next assignment can never drive innovation like this. Leaders need to be open and engaged. They must model the high level of trust they want to see.

Admittedly, it takes courage to be this type of leader. It takes vulnerability to give power and control away. Sometimes fear of change is expressed as micromanagement. The micromanaging boss infrequently releases control, rarely shares responsibility, and stifles creativity. This erodes trust and causes employees to check out.

Some managers are too caught up in daily tasks to make time for their people. They’re so busy putting out fires and doing other important things, leadership takes a backseat. Your experience probably has shown that leadership and management are not the same thing.

Your leadership team might just need an ally, a champion - and that could be you.

Change can be daunting. It requires trust building, and active implementation. If you and your team actively create a problem-solving culture you’ll find "Innovation isn’t an idea problem, .


Everyone can be part of the solution


  • Honest feedback is essential.
  • Not all good ideas can be implemented right away.
  • Empower decision making for high-priority needs.
  • Assign action champions.
  • Create committees to tackle tough issues.

When every employee realizes their voice matters, they will engage. They will think critically and offer solutions. They will become active participants in building the type of center they want to work for and leaders will enjoy leading.

This can be satisfying to teams and the managers who have felt they have had to carry the burden themselves.

Have you had success creating change at your agency? Has active problem-solving smoothed processes, relationships, or other challenges? We’d like to hear from you.


About the Author


Adam Timm is the author of the #1 bestselling book, Stress Is Optional! How to Kick the Habit, and the co-founder of The Healthy Dispatcher, a company devoted to inspiring front line 9-1-1 telecommunicators with innovative training classes, leadership coaching, and consulting services.A 9-1-1 telecommunicator for over a decade and a passionate advocate for PSAP health and wellness, he brings his stories from the front line into his writings and classes. He is a frequent keynote and breakout session speaker at APCO and NENA conferences around the country, and his second book, Dispatcher Stress: 50 Lessons on Beating the Burnout, is out now.

Adam is also hosting two sessions, August 13 & 14, at the 2017 APCO conference in Denver, CO.

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