Problem-solving involves thought and understanding. Although it may appear simple, identifying a problem may be a challenging process.
“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes”, says American industrialist Henry Kaiser. According to Concise Oxford Dictionary (1995), a problem is “ doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution” and “something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with.” Such situations are at the center of what many people do at work every day.
Whether to help a client solve a problem, support a problem-solver, or to discover new problems, problem-solving is a crucial element to the workplace ingredients. Everyone can benefit from effective problem-solving skills that would make people happier. Everyone wins. Hence, this approach is a critical element but how can you do it effectively? You need to find a solution, but not right away. People tend to put the solution at the beginning of the process but they actually needed it at the end of the process.
Here are six steps to an effective problem-solving process:
Identify the issues
The first phase of problem-solving requires thought and analysis. Problem identification may sound clear, but it actually can be a difficult task. So you should spend some time to define the problem and know people’s different views on the issue.
Understand everyone’s interests
You should not skip this critical step in the problem-solving process. In order to come up with a satisfying solution, you should first develop a clear picture of the problem and find the facts by actively listening with the intention to understand. The best solution is the one that satisfies everyone’s interests.
List the possible solutions
Separate the interests from the solutions, use the information gathered in the first two phases and start some creative brainstorming. This will allow each person in the group to express their views on possible solutions. Generate a range of possible courses of action, but with little attempt to evaluate them at this stage.
Make a decision
This stage is perhaps the most complex part of the problem-solving process. Yet it involves careful analysis of the different possible courses of action followed by selecting the best solution for implementation. Make sure to choose the best option in the balance or to “bundle” a number of options together for a more satisfactory solution.
Implement the solution
Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During this stage, you may face more problems. Especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully.
This last stage of the problem-solving process is about checking that all the steps were successful. To achieve that, you must monitor and seek feedback from people affected by the change of conditions. It is also important that you monitor compliance and follow-through and create opportunities to evaluate the agreements and their implementation.
By following the whole process, you will be able to enhance your problem-solving skills and increase your patience. Keep in mind that effective problem solving does take some time and attention. You have to always be ready to hit the brakes and slow down. A problem is like a bump road. Take it right and you’ll find yourself in good shape for the straightaway that follows. Take it too fast and you may not be in as good shape.
Case study 1:
According to Real Time Economics, there are industries that have genuinely evolved, with more roles for people with analytical and problem-solving skills. In healthcare, for example, a regulatory change requiring the digitization of health records has led to greater demand for medical records technicians. Technological change in the manufacturing industry has reduced routine factory jobs while demanding more skilled workers who can operate complex machinery.
Case study 2:
Yolanda was having a hard time dealing with difficult clients and dealing with her team at the office, so she decided to take a problem-solving course. “I was very pleased with the 2-day Problem Solving program at RSM. It is an excellent investment for anyone involved in the strategic decision-making process—be it in their own company or as a consultant charged with supporting organizations facing strategic challenges.“
Yolanda Barreros Gutiérrez, B&C Consulting
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