“Problem solving is the essence of what leaders exist to do,” says Glen Llopis of Forbes. The best problem solvers realize that it’s a skill they need to build and refine constantly.
TRY answering these questions:
- When faced with a problem do you widen your options?
- How often do you identify and then test your assumptions?
- How often are you successful at implementing the solution that was decided on?
- Do you consistently consider your blind spots when solving a problem?
- Do you take an emotionally long-term, rather than a short-term, view to solving problems?
- Do you prepare yourself, your team, and your organization in case the solution is wrong or fails?
- Do you consider the unintended consequences of the solutions you will implement?
WATCH this: Tom Wujec gave a TEDxTalk that explains a new process, perhaps, for problem solving using your teams. If you’ve seen post-it notes all over a conference room lately, they’re probably using some form of this method. You can find templates on Tom’s website to help walk you through each step of solving specific problems at work you might be facing.
LOOK for these when solving a problem: Strategic assumptions. Mark Hollingsworth states in his article, Strategic Assumptions: The Essential (and Missing) Element of Your Strategic Plan states, “A major reason for the absence of a set of strategic assumptions is that often senior management does not recognize that assumptions are, indeed, being made. They genuinely believe that future markets, competition, customer needs, etc. will evolve exactly as they are expected to. The resulting “group think” – valid and well-founded or not – is therefore not viewed as a set of assumptions at all. It is viewed as fact, the most dangerous assumption of all!”
START HERE: Define the problem, not just the symptoms. If you have a workforce that is not demonstrating initiative, it’s important to consider how team members are treated when they fail at something. If team members at work are not encouraged to fail, then they probably aren’t going to feel comfortable trying something new. The symptom you notice is lack of initiative, when the root cause may be a culture or boss that isn’t open to or discourages new ideas or verbally punishes those that try and fail with new innovations. It’s also possible that team members need to be encouraged to develop skills in idea generation and creative thinking.
A popular 7-step problem-solving method can be seen in this short (4:38) video and is outlined as:
- Data Collection
- Cause Analysis
- Solution Planning & Implementation
- Evaluation of Effects
- Evaluation of Process