(Problem solving for business problems, not people problems. For people problems, see Conflict Resolution)
What this looks like:
Resolves complex problems through analytical thinking and with the best interest of the collective team in mind
Identifies problems and their root cause and offers suggestions to or resolves them promptly while establishing processes to prevent them from happening again or to minimize negative impact
Anticipates potential problems and proactively takes steps to minimize risks
Look for trends. Determine trends you have noticed in the problems you encounter i.e., lack of training, lack of process, the same manager is overseeing it, etc. Figure out how to tackle those trends.
Try this: Conduct a Root Cause Analysis such as the Fishbone Cause & Effect Analysis to identify the underlying issue and determine if it can be prevented in the future.
Don’t be a complainer. You may know some Negative Nancy’s or party poopers. They’ve earned this title because they typically identify the problem without offering solutions.
Try this: The next time you share a problem with your manager or colleague, share your analysis and a recommended solution, rather than just the problem and your opinion of the problem.
Problem solve together. It’s okay to ask for help—there’s no need to have an ego and try to resolve everything by yourself. Get other people’s perspectives on the problem, including people who are not familiar with the issue so they can look at it with a fresh perspective.
Try this: Hold a brainstorming session or focus group for one of your projects and invite people who will be impacted by its implementation. Discuss the problem, goals, scope, parameters and encourage the group to think of ideas to improve the project deliverables.
Seek to resolve, not to judge. It’s easy for us to disregard a colleague’s idea, especially if you’re more senior to the colleague and have more experience. Be in the mindset that even a bad idea can evolve into an awesome idea by practicing to listen, understand, resolve issues together.
Try this: The next time someone approaches you with a suggestion you’re skeptic about, ask them to go into further details about their idea, including the benefits, the actions, the results, etc. If you do believe that their idea will not work, rather than just telling them “it won’t work,” explain to them why, including the obstacles and what you’ve tried in the past to resolve the issue. Not being able to understand why someone else’s idea won’t work will only cause more problems between you and your colleague.
Consider the impact on others. It’s not really problem-solving if you solve your immediate issue on the micro-level but potentially cause problems for other teams and/or your organization.
Try this: With every possible solution, evaluate the impact it has not only on the immediate problem, but on other areas of the company. If a solution has a negative impact on another area, look for ways to reduce the negative impact, or choose another solution.
More resources for inspiration
Atlassian: Team Playbook - DACI Model by Atlassian
Center for Management & Org Effectiveness: 10 Ways to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
Harvard Business Review: Are You Solving the Right Problems? by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg
Harvard Business Review: When Solving Problems, Think About What You Could Do, Not What You Should Do by Francesca Gino
FYI For Your Improvement by Michael Lombardo & Robert Eichinger - Chapter 51: Problem Solving
Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Harvard Business Review: The Right Way to Solve Complex Business Problems by Curt Nickisch (20m 19s)
Entrepreneur: Problem Solvers Series (Features business owners and CEOs who went through a crippling business problem and came out the other side happy, wealthy, and growing).
TED Talk: How to Make Stress Your Friend by Kelly McGonigal (14m 28s)
TED Talk: Want to Innovate? Become a Now-ist by Joi Ito (12m 31s)
TED Talk: What I Discovered in New York City Trash by Robin Nagle (7m 49s)
TED Talk: You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems by Tapiwa Chiwewe (8m 38s)
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