Q: When asking someone “What do you think,” what do I do when their solution is just more of the same wrong approach?
A: First, don’t underestimate the need for basic critical thinking and organizational skills. I can’t tell you how many times I would ask my new officers “show me how you are keeping track of that” or “show me your plan” [NOTE: not TELL me your plan which can be a bunch of hot air made up on the spot and then disappears so there is no accountability– SHOW.] Initially they might bristle and call it micromanagement but when they see you are trying to help them make their jobs better, usually it gets easier.
Second, it sounds like you’ve got some people who’ve been beaten into just doing the minimum and are not thinking about the power they have over their jobs. I asked a host of hypothetical and “imagine this” questions to get them thinking like:
“If we have to process twice as many clients with the same staff, how could we do that?”
“If you could do one thing to make this process more [efficient/accurate/faster…] what would you do?”
“Imagine it’s a year from now — what would we be doing better than we are today? What would be the first steps to that?”
“Is there something we could try and see that make might the process better?”
If it seems too far to get them to come up with new ideas then start with just “show me how this works” that would take a lot of time but would involve shadowing them for an hour and through interactions getting them thinking more broadly about their job.
Third, you could also do job swaps and I’m a big fan of shadowing. Have people from different departments watch each other for an hour. It’s like training the person who could fill in for you when you go on vacation.