Everyone experiences problems at work, but how we approach these problems makes all the difference in how well we resolve them in an efficient manner. In fact, the basics to business problem solving are not too much different from how we solve problems in our private lives.
That said, we must first recognize there is a problem; second, identify the cause of the problem, third; gather all facts relating to the problem and, fourth, review the options available for solving the problem.
Here are five steps for helping you solve even the most complex problem from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of the Northwest:
1. Define the Problem — A clear understanding of the problem is the first step in solving it. If you are discussing a problem with a team member, don’t assume that all parties involved define the problem in the same manner. Make sure that everyone agrees what the problem is so that there aren’t any misunderstandings.
2. Understand the Root Cause of the Problem — We all want to resolve the problem, but we first need to find the root cause of the problem. Was it from miscommunication? Was it from the failure to follow certain processes or procedures? Understanding the root cause will help prevent the problem from happening again.
3. List Possible Solutions to the Problem — Go to a white board or flip chart and write out a list of possible solutions. It pays to spend extra time on the list, especially if the problem is rather complex in nature or requires communication with a team member, department or remote division to solve the problem.
4. Select the Best Possible Solution — Rank the solutions in order, with #1 being the best solution. Don’t forget to look at the cost associated with each possible solution, too.
5. Make a Decision to Take Action — Don’t wait for the problem to grow out of hand, as it could have a huge rippling effect on your organization, especially if there is a customer involved. The longer the problem goes unresolved, the more stressful the problem can become for everyone involved. In addition, new problems could arise at any time that can distract from solving the old problems if one waits.
Accepting responsibility for the consequences of actions taken or decision-making is the reason most people shy away from taking a leadership role in problem solving. But you don’t have to be afraid, as people who are good at problem solving are some of the most valuable and respected people in business. And remember this: Every problem has a solution!
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