Defining a problem is of course key to solving a problem. Try defining it in writing. Think about what went wrong and the impact it had on your business or your department. When you read it back, the problem should be clear and it should be evident why it is important. Be careful to describe just the problem, not what you will do to fix it. Next, make sure you have your facts straight. If you are working on a team, does everyone see it the same way? Keep an open mind. Simplify things as much as possible to get to the root cause of the problem. Avoid the Band-Aid syndrome where we just fix the symptoms, but don’t really get to the heart of the problem.
Once you have a clear definition of the problem, ask yourself how you will know when the problem is solved. If you don’t know what success will look like, it’s very hard to be successful. If it’s too subjective, it will be difficult to work toward a true solution.
Before I get too far in the process, I always ask myself if I know an expert on the topic; someone who may have had the same or a similar problem. Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Consider consulting with them before setting out on what may be a long path. If you find an answer, that’s great. If not, maybe you at least have a good starting point, or know some pitfalls to watch out for.
If you still don’t have a satisfactory solution to your problem, it’s time to start coming up with potential solutions on your own. For large problems, think about it as a project and use some project management skills such as identifying tasks, assigning ownership to people working with you, setting due dates for deliverable, etc. Hold everyone including yourself to meeting your commitments.
Once you review your potential solutions, make the best decision and go with it. Remember to thank those who assisted you and monitor your progress. Sometimes, the first solution isn’t the best, and you may have to revisit it. That’s okay. Each step should bring you closer to the best solution. It wouldn’t be called problem solving if it were completely smooth sailing!
Thoughts…….. Contact me at abbe@TECResourceCenter.com
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