Problem Solving…Now let me think!

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Problem solving skills are vital from two points of view…finding solutions to, and as part of a project or a new way of working…OR…when unexpected problems occur. Its no surprise then, that they are among the most valuable qualities sought for in job applicants.

Ironically, we are solving problems on most days of the week, but in smaller ways and that can be solved instantly, to complicated ones that require a long-term view involving in-depth, critical thinking.

Many organisations use Lean techniques and Six Sigma methods to assess problem solving. These are processes that rely heavily on a team effort to improve performance by removing waste and reducing variation.
What then of the process?

  1. The first stage of any problem-solving process is to identify the problem or problems. This should allow for making sure that your team agree…the problem can manifest itself in different ways.
  2. While problem analysis is similar, it should be a separate action. The process of problem analysis means ensuring that the problem you are seeking to solve is the right problem. As part of this stage, you may look deeper and try to find the root cause of a specific problem at a team or organizational level.
  3. Once you have agreed the particulars of the problem, you want to encourage a free flow of ideas that might lead to solving the problem. The key to ensuring the success is to encourage quick, creative thinking and where all ideas are considered.
  4. We can now move to “Solution Development”. No solution is likely to be perfect immediately…It’s important to discuss and develop the solutions, to ensure that you arrive at realistic options, and ensuring the input of all.
  5. Now with consensus reached and a solution selected, you have some decisions to make. This will include allocating ownership of the project, agree who will do what, how the success of the solution will be measured and then decide on the next course of action.
  6. Nearly there! Implementation stage. Remember that in order for any solution to be successful, you need to help your group through all of the previous problem solving steps thoughtfully. Project management and communication skills are key here…there may still be adjustments and challenges along the way.
  7. Finally, solution evaluation. You & your team have developed a great solution to a problem and think you have cracked it! All problem solving strategies benefit from evaluation, consideration, and feedback. You might find that the solution does not work for everyone, might create new problems, or is potentially so successful that you will want to roll it out to larger teams or as part of other initiatives.

A problem can also allow for new and improved ways of working!

It is better to solve one problem five different ways, than to solve five problems one way”
George Pólya