How To Effectively Problem Solve

There is no time for lollygagging when in comes to keeping up and increasing productivity. Problems needs to be solved effectively and efficiently. It’s a matter of really thinking about the problem. Lay out all the solutions and approach it from all angles so you can end up with the best decision. Here is a step by step process that should help you problem solve:

1. Take the time to define the problem clearly. Many executives like to jump into solution mode immediately, even before they understand the issue. In some cases, a small problem can become a big one with inappropriate actions. In all cases, real clarity will expedite the path ahead.

2. Pursue alternate paths on “facts of life” and opportunities. Remember, there are some things that you can do nothing about. They’re not problems; they are merely facts of life. Often, what appears to be a problem is actually an opportunity in disguise.

3. Challenge the definition from all angles. Beware of any problem for which there is only one definition. The more ways you can define a problem, the more likely it is that you will find the best solution. For example, “sales are too low” may mean strong competitors, ineffective advertising, or a poor sales process.

4. Iteratively question the cause of the problem. This is all about finding the root cause, rather than treating a symptom. If you don’t get to the root, the problem will likely recur, perhaps with different symptoms. Don’t waste time re-solving the same problem.

5. Identify multiple possible solutions. The more possible solutions you develop, the more likely you will come up with the right one. The quality of the solution seems to be in direct proportion to the quantity of solutions considered in problem solving.

6. Prioritize potential solutions. An acceptable solution, doable now, is usually superior to an excellent solution with higher complexity, longer timeframe, and higher cost. There is a rule that says that every large problem was once a small problem that could have been solved easily at that time.

7. Make a decision. Select a solution, any solution, and then decide on a course of action. The longer you put off deciding on what to do, the higher the cost, and the larger the impact. Your objective should be to deal with 80 percent of all problems immediately. At the very least, set a specific deadline for making a decision, and stick to it.

8. Assign responsibility. Who exactly is going to carry out the solution or the different elements of the solution? Otherwise nothing will happen, and you have no recourse but to implement all solutions yourself.

9. Set a measure for the solution. Otherwise you will have no way of knowing when and whether the problem was solved. Problem solutions in a complex system often have unintended side effects which can be worse than the original problem.

(via Inc.)