Part II: Problem-Solving
Talent comes in many forms. One of the most powerful is problem-solving. It benefits the team (smoother execution), leadership (fewer headaches and distractions), customers (greater service satisfaction) and the bottom line (efficiency reduces costs).
“Problem” is a broad term encompassing an unplanned event, miscommunication, technology jam, team conflict, and trouble in execution. A prominent cause of project failure or delay is the lack of timely, practical, and well-developed solutions to unexpected problems.
People who are skilled in problem-solving have undoubtedly learned from prior experiences. They know how to look at challenges objectively, remove sentiment and emotions from the process, hold themselves fully accountable, and focus solely on a smart solution path.
Insider tip: Start by changing the word “solve”. When contending with a problem, replace solve with detection, exploration, modeling, experimentation, and accuracy analysis.
Troubleshooting also requires being unconstrained by allowing others to influence and persuade your thinking.
When facing a problem…
Initial Key Questions
- What assumptions may already be made by stakeholders or team members? [Tackle them]
- What perceptions are out there, whether accurate or not, that will require targeted communication? [Address them]
- What guardrails may be necessary to prevent your project from coming off the track? [Erect the rails]
- Is there any part of the problem not fully represented, which necessitates gathering more information? [Dig deeper]
- Should more resources and SMEs (subject matter experts) be leveraged to reach a resolution? [Reach out]
Adopt Heuristic Methods
- Receive the problem and reiterate it to affirm the information and your interpretation of the details presented.
- Ask several people their thoughts or prior experience with this problem or something similar to it.
- Scrutinize the processes, activities, interactions and/or production taking place just before, during, around or after the problem.
- Look for any observable pattern that may help to find a solution.
- Share the problem with trusted peers for their insights on a comparable issue or parallel instance.
- Pursue the ‘what ifs’ and explore different ideas as potential remedies.
- Once there is one or more strong hypothesis on the right solution, then execute and test the results.
- Be willing to take risks to optimize the resolution while mitigating exposure to any extreme outcomes.
Make a Difference by Doing It Differently
- Tap the unexplored – look for paths that others have not followed.
- Test a variety of ways to distinguish an optimal answer to the problem.
- Emphasize individuality as a characteristic of the problem to prevent it from appearing to be wide-spread or overwhelming.
- When proposing a solution, demonstrate value using the cost / benefit ratio.
- Remember that diversity reigns supreme – not all prospective solutions are the same.
Transcend Conventional Thinking
- Assess each possible solution as to whether it will satisfy your audience and even attract new customers.
- Consider how to best cultivate an advantage in your solution that is succinct and sustainable.
- Instead of dismissing an idea – weigh the benefit of shaping and reconstructing it.
- Look for demands that may exist around a problem, which are not yet discovered.
Resolution Pathway Points
- Effective communication. honesty and receptiveness are must-haves.
- Explore uncharted territory and embrace diverse perspectives.
- Be adaptable and let experiments be steered in new directions.
- Positively influence processes and continually measure outputs.
- Push boundaries and reframe difficult situations.
- Accept when it’s necessary to take an Incremental approach to reaching a solution.
When proposing a solution, be forward-thinking on expectations and anticipated results. Be prepared for a range of reactions from the following:
- Customers, the public, and the industry
- The business itself and the finance team
- Existing operators and project leaders
- The affected team members
What to avoid in problem-solving?
- Rigidness in thinking and perspective
- Silo of ideas
- Rapid responses and conclusions
- Demand to take a particular direction
- Expression of negativity or discouragement
- Allowing fear of failure to impact decisions
Problem-solving skills are valuable attributes of a team or leader. Why? Because every business initiative will experience adversity or obstacles.
The ability to successfully identify and execute solutions has a ripple effect and is both cost-saving and time-saving. It reveals the very best in all of us, including patience, perseverance, courage, confidence, resilience, openness and the all important “grit with grace.”