- Posted by tonyw
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Problem solving in business can be just like a board game: Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders – sometimes we just can’t get past Go to Jail, let alone Go! Unseen and unimagined consequences lurk further down the line and this fear of the unknown can paralyse a business and stall creativity and progress. Time this with a company on the brink of decline, and the enterprise can spiral into free-fall.
The real issue at work here is ‘uncertainty’. Has the issue been correctly identified? What, where and how is the best way to avoid sliding down the snake? These are crucial questions for many firms. Taking a deep breath – and rolling the dice with confidence – is the crucial first step to climbing back up the ladder.
Ok, enough of the metaphors. You get the picture.
Here’s a 4-step proven approach to problem solving for typical small and medium size enterprises. I hope it works for you.
1 See clearly. The first and most obvious step is to make sure the problem has been accurately diagnosed. Trying to solve an issue, which, in reality is the wrong one, is a waste of time, cost and emotion. This may sound obvious, but very often it is the case. The perception of a problem can differ from the way it is in reality.
Check whether other members of the firm, namely those not normally responsible for taking such a view, see the problem the same way. Their perception will provide a useful reality-check and ensure that communication remains transparent.
2 Sort out a process. The first thing is to bring together a group of people to act as the ‘action team’ with responsibility for tackling the issue. The team should be tasked with the brief to identify the problem and then a solution or range of solutions as their first step. Their approach should be to look around the problem and not view it in a linear fashion, and above all to be honest in its definition.
Follow this with an appraisal of the pros and cons of each and then select the best solution. Then ask the team to implement it.
3 Choose the best team. The team should be drawn from all areas of the business and consist of four to six individuals. In taking this approach, there is a good chance that ‘silo mentality’ will be eliminated. It’s very important to clarify that everyone in the team is equal, regardless of their position or seniority in the business.
Teams like this perform best in a positive environment. So choose open-minded people to staff the team and avoid negative thinkers and procrastinators.
4 Be strategic. Solutions to important business issues will often be the harbingers of change. And, as with most changes in business, can be met with welcome or concern. So it’s vital to show how change is of strategic relevance to the business and to the benefit and good of all stakeholders, including staff and customers
So, if your business is facing a major problem, don’t keep it to yourself. Share the issue with your team and you’ll get past “Go” in no time!