One of the main roles of a leader is to solve problems. Whether it’s infighting between team members, frequent delays on important shipments, or managing last-minute requests from clients, there will always be questions to be answered and decisions to be made.
The secret to effectively and efficiently solving these problems is a systematic approach. By having defined steps to follow, you will reduce the feelings of overwhelming stress that often accompany big decisions, and can easily track the results of your choice.
So the next time you’re facing a problem at work (or anywhere else), employ the following steps to come to a solution.
Define the Problem
Before you can tackle any obstacle, it’s necessary that you understand it. So the first step, naturally, is to clearly and concisely describe what the problem is. Avoid placing blame or offering excuses or solutions — you’re merely laying out the facts of the case.
Understand its Cause
If the cause of a problem isn’t completely understood, then any solution you attempt will, at best, be simply a bandaid. This is why Dale Carnegie’s first rule of solving any problem is to get the facts. As he wrote in How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, “neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”
List Possible Solutions
Let your imagination run wild — there is no idea too outrageous! Brainstorm by writing down anything and everything that might possibly solve your problem (at the very least, the more outlandish ones might help you to laugh).
Select A Solution
Once you have reviewed and fine-tuned your list of possible solutions, choose one! This process could include rating the pros and cons of various options, polling decision-makers and stake-holders, or following the precedents of similar past situations.
Set Goals for Implementing the Solution
In order to assess the effectiveness of any problem-solving initiative, it is necessary to have a means to measure it. This can include periodic check-ins on critical metrics and discussions with affected parties, coupled with specific targets and plans for accountability.
By defining these goals prior to implementation, and making them clear to everyone involved, exactly what you are aiming to achieve is obvious and your chances for success are increased.
Implement the Solution
You’ve gathered the facts and made a plan, so now you’re at the point of deployment! Unleash your initiative and get ready to observe the outcomes.
Reflect on the Results
Once you have begun the implementation of your chosen solution, refer back to the goals laid out in step five. Determine whether or not you’re reaching those targets, and if you aren’t, try to determine why. If the problem has been solved (or if things are at least moving in the right direction,) congratulations! If things aren’t quite coming up the way you hoped, move through the cycle again, adding in any new information you have gathered, and picking another solution to implement. Very few of us get everything right on the first try, which is why this approach to problem-solving is cyclical!
“When you face a problem, solve it then and there if you have the facts necessary to make a decision. Don’t keep putting off decisions.” Dale Carnegie