This is a skill that we have become very good at avoiding and ignoring. What we have become good at is blaming something, someone or excusing it away. There are always going to be problems, that is a part of life.
One of the causes for our avoidance is that we see problems as a huge negative beast that we should run away from. Whereas it is a great opportunity to grow and improve our skills, knowledge and character. That has to be a good thing. Another cause is that we don’t want to tackle a problem because if we “fail” then it really is our problem and we will get the blame…… won’t we? Ummmmmm rarely. Managers know you are going to make mistakes. The problem is where you don’t follow existing protocols, and also don’t learn from your mistakes and repeat them.
We have become so good at the blame game that we have completely lost the ability to problem solve – which actually is not that hard. Even worse, we exacerbate the problem by not dealing with it and make it bigger for someone else to deal with.
I guess I was lucky enough in my youth to be taught something very valuable: “The only wrong decision you can ever make, is not to make one” This goes for not dealing with problems as well.
How do you solve problems?
While there are many templates or processes out there, I feel this is a good place to start. Acknowledge that problems are going to happen. Know that if you develop problem solving skills, your are going to be an asset in your workplace, as most people will stick their heads in the sand and play the avoidance game. This can position you very well in employers eyes. Even better, practice your skills now and have a process to follow and put that skill in your resume. Now who is going to stand out from the crowd?
Here are some steps to form a successful problem solving process:
- Remove your emotions
- Define the problem. Know what you are dealing with and get all the facts.
- Determine the repercussions it can cause
- Brainstorm the possible solutions
- Look at the consequences for each solution
- Pick, Plan, and Perform
- Review results
- You can’t think clearly or objectively when you bring feelings and emotions to the situation. It’s not about casting blame, or looking at the why it happened. The task is to just get it sorted.
- When you define the problem with all its components, you can see if it is a one solution event or if it can be broken down into manageable chunks. Don’t get overwhelmed by a task, just take one well planned chunk at at time. This also allows you to address step 3.
- Determine the repercussions. To do this ask the 6 open ended questions. What Where When Who Why and How [as you come up with as many answers for these, often the solutions start to make themselves known] By answering these you can clearly look at the repercussions which gives a really good platform as to the possible solutions.
- Brainstorm the possible solutions. In brainstorming everything gets put on the table….. everything. One idea that maybe so far out, can inspire the one great one. When you have exhausted these possibilities, review and delete the obvious weak ones.
- With the ones left, look at the repercussions or risk for each of them. If there is an obvious high risk then move that one to the side. Now decide the important factors to get a solution. They could be: Time frame, Cost, Number of resources required, Urgency, Flow on effects. If there are some flow on issues that need to be dealt with, come up with a plan for these, using the same process.
- Pick the most appropriate for this criteria. Before you put your plan into action, ask, do you have the authority to do this? Who else should I involve? Do I have the go ahead to spend the money? If the answer for those is yes, then start your plan of action. Remember you do not have to do this all by yourself. Other people have skills, ideas and experience that you don’t, so share the load. [that’s share the load, not involve others who I can blame if it all goes wrong] If you have the backing of your leadership after you have shared your plan, then there no problem. Perform your plan as per your blueprint. Don’t deviate from it unless you brainstorm it. That introduces a whole new and unnecessary risk.
- Review the results and see what was good about the solution and what could have been done better. Everything you do is another opportunity to learn.
Think about a recent problem that you either faced or know about. Go through the above steps and see how you might have solved that problem. Now pick another one. They don’t have to big problems, just ones you can start to learn the process with.
To develop your problem solving skills and play at the same time.
I have an app called Peak – Brain Training and use it daily. There is a free and pro version for you to explore and is available for both Apple and Android https://www.peak.net
I am currently negotiating with Peak to get a discount for the pro version for you so will keep you posted. Try the free one for now. For the record – no I do not get an incentive for recommending this app.