Steps to Successful Problem Solving
leaders have multiple problems to face on a day-to-day basis.
Most, of course, are minor and can readily be addressed; but
others are much stickier and have potentially far-reaching
ramifications. With the
latter, it is often helpful to follow a structured format that can help
leaders work toward meaningful solutions.
problem solving requires not only a keen assessment of the situation,
but also an ability to listen to your inner signals: experiences,
feelings, preferences, and ethical standards.
In addition, leaders must be astutely receptive to the responses
of others. When you can put
all three together--the external situation, your self-awareness, and the
reactions of others--your odds of finding a satisfactory solution
1: Clarify the problem
moving ahead on an issue, it is vitally important that you know exactly
what the problem really is. Problem
solving efforts can be counterproductive if you don't have the
"real" issues firmly identified, or you are reinventing the
wheel, or you are putting a disproportionate amount of time and energy
into a problem that doesn't warrant such effort.
The questions below will help you initiate the clarification
you state the problem precisely?
is the source of the problem: A person/team?
Changing conditions? External factors? New data? Etc.
is involved in the issue?
will happen if the problem goes unsolved?
do those people who are affected by the issue feel/know about it?
Two: Processing the issue
you have clearly identified the problem, process it from four different
perspectives: sensing, intuiting, thinking, and feeling:
are the facts? What
resources do you have to help solve the problem?
What has been done in the past?
you brainstormed the issue? How does this issue impact your work
culture? What are the implications of the information you have gathered?
are the consequences of various options? What are the pros and cons of
each option? What impact will suggested options have? How can you
successfully apply each option?
the options fit your values? What effect will each option have on the
people involved? Will the options support harmony and success?
Step Three: Testing possible solutions
you have processed the issue, it is time to list and rank your options.
With the options ranked at the top of your list, apply the
following considerations to test the workability of each.
Visualize barriers and worst/best case scenarios
Identify people who will support this option.
Establish criteria for a solution
Challenge your thinking
Step Four: Commitment
you have defined, processed, and tested key options, you must finally
"pull the trigger." Commit
to a solution and establish a sensible course of action:
a reasonable timetable
Five: Monitor and adjust
feedback continuously. This is important because solutions to problems
must remain adjustable as the situation changes.
An ongoing, thorough appraisal of an implemented action can fall
into four different categories:
Reactions. How are people responding to the action?
Assessment. What effect is the
action having on budgets? Materials? Costs? Machinery? Production?
Procurement? Profits? Etc.
Shifts. Is the action
changing on-the-job behavior?
Impact. To what extent is the
action impacting your goals?