Is your approach to Problem-Solving just a case of throwing your finger in the air and go in the direction of the wind? Is the solution driven by consensus, by just by senior leadership, or is it one man making the decisions? 

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I think back to my time in management and the use of that famous phrase, “Come to me with solutions, NOT problems”, then realised that my teams were never really taught how to problem-solve, so I just ended up overruling them anyway.

Taking the right approach to business problem-solving could be the difference between a hit and a miss, success and failure. A structured problem-solving approach on each level of the business can help to create cohesion between the teams, departments, and the leadership, plus free some time up to talk about more important things. 

Problem-solving doesn’t always require hours of time in a conference room with thousands of post-it notes scattered across the wall, unless it’s a really serious problem. Effective results can be just as easily obtained from short and simple exercises involving the people that are closest to the problem.  

Rules

There are some important rules to consider when doing a simple problem-solving exercise: –  

  1. Document and Define the problem in full. 
    • Only by writing down and defining what the problem is, can you effectively solve it and find solutions.  
    • Write the problem statement in a way that everybody can understand it. 
    • Include what the ideal outcome should be. 
  2. Involve people from closest to the problem. 
    • The best people to solve a problem are those that are affected by it. 
    • They may already know the solutions but haven’t been given a platform to give opinions before. Involving them prompts engagement and buy-in to the ideas from others within the team and helps towards implementing a smoother change. 
  3. Look beyond the initial symptoms and into root causes.  
    • The real cause of a problem is not always clearly visible at first sight. Learn to dig deep and look beyond the initial cause. 
    • If the number of root causes are increasing dramatically, consider an outside facilitator to conduct a larger problem-solving exercise. 
  4. Document the root causes. 
    • Record the root causes so that you can address each one in isolation. 
  5. Find solutions for ALL root causes and document. 
    • Address each root cause in turn. Brainstorm ideas that would remove or mitigate the cause.  
    • A good practice at this stage is to think of ideas that range from an easy fix to a blue-sky idea and capture everything. 
  6. Prioritise the solutions. 
    • Take each of the potential solutions and prioritise them according to cost, time, and risk.  
    • Pick the low hanging fruit that are easy to implement at little to no cost or risk.  
    • Save the bigger ideas for a later occasion, but don’t rule them out. 
  7. Implement, train, evaluate and review. 
    • Implement the easy solutions immediately and plan the more complex solutions.  
    • If process related, document the new process or procedure, train the team on the new process or procedure, then monitor the improvements.  
    • Ensure that you review the process or procedure periodically to check ongoing relevance. 

The common factor throughout the whole process is “Document” it. You might not implement every solution, but by documenting them all, you can refer back to other ideas if the first idea doesn’t work. You may also have those blue-sky solutions that need further investigation or feasibility studies doing for potential future improvement projects.  

From experience, the same problem sometimes re-occurs. But what if it’s not the same people problem-solving when it re-occurs? Having reference to old problems will highlight if it has happened before and what was done previously.  

Where problems occur on two or more occasions, it is recommended that a fully facilitated problem solving exercise is carried out by a trained facilitator. The chances are that the problem has more than just a couple of root causes. So a continual improvement practitioner can really help to dig deep on root causes and help to create a full action plan to resolve. 

Combined Minds facilitate simple bitesize training workshops to give business leaders and management the tools and templates to structure their problem-solving, and best practice techniques on how to sustain the solutions. Where there are bigger problems to deal with, we can also facilitate a full scale problem deep-dive using the knowledge and skills of the people within the business.

To learn more email info@combined-minds.co.uk or arrange a free consultation.