Workplace problem solving is an important skill, especially if you are a business owner or in some leadership position or you hope to be. But problem solving probably wasn’t something you studied in school, and sometimes it’s presumed to be something you simply know or don’t know how to do. However, if you want to run a business or be perceived as a leader in your workplace, you need to develop this skill. The steps below can help you solve problems in the workplace more effectively.
Know and Understand the Issue
Your business needs to be able to adapt to the changing world and that can lead to internal problems in some cases. Speaking of, what, exactly, is the problem? This might seem like an easy question to answer, but make sure you aren’t looking at a symptom and misidentifying it as the main issue. Talk to your staff and, if appropriate, to customers to get other perspectives. This can also give you insight into what others need in a solution. Try to make sure you have a good sense of what everyone is looking for in a solution. Cast the net wide. This helps make everyone feel empowered and as though they have input into the solution. It also helps avoid a situation in which you inadvertently cause issues in one department by solving a problem in another department.
Finally, it can be useful for persuading employees if the solution means they are going to have made changes in their processes. Sometimes, employees can be resistant to change, especially if they are not likely to see short-term benefits. “It’s going to make the company a lot more money” is probably not that compelling to them if there are pain points along the way and few tangible benefits. However, if they are part of the conversation, they may be more open to the solution.
Brainstorm and Evaluate
These should be two separate processes. In fact, it’s a critical element of brainstorming that you don’t judge the options you are coming up with. Brainstorming works best when it’s done using effective brainstorming techniques, and in a team with an element of trust among participants. Remember, at this stage, there are no bad ideas. You can sit down in a conference room and spend an hour generating ideas, or you could get even more creative, asking employees to send in suggestions by email and offering perks for the best ones. In the second process, evaluation, you will weigh the merits of each possible solution.
You should draw up a list of criteria for making this decision. There are a few ways to work your way through the best ideas. One is to make a list of pros and cons and give each pro or con a certain amount of weight. Another way is to mind map, which is a more visual approach and which allows you to follow various threads to their logical conclusion. What is vital in these or any process that works for making a decision is that you are concrete in expressing what you need and what the expected outcome is.
When you are finally ready to select a solution, go back and look at the perspectives of others and what their needs were. Does this help meet their needs? As an example, maybe you are looking for a better way to manage your company fleet. It’s been agreed that one element of a solution should be the ability to know where drivers are at any given time. A GPS fleet tracker can help as part of an overall suite of software and solutions that provides real-time data and other information. You could then investigate the different types of GPS fleet tracking software available and choose the best for your needs.
Documentation has two benefits. First, it acts as a kind of final step that helps you evaluate the choice you’ve made. Putting everything in writing can often reveal questions or concerns you did not address. Documentation also gives you a way to understand your thought processes later if you want to go back and review why you made the choice you did. At this stage, you can write down the concrete results that you expect from the solution as well as a specific point in time when you will evaluate how well the solution worked and the criteria you will use to do so.