Strategies for Problem Solving and Decision Making

Effective problem-solving skills are essential for business people. If recurring problems keep arising, we are not responding correctly – a dead-end solution is no solution at all. Developing ways to identify the problem accurately results in identifying effective solutions.

If we approach problem solving in a professional and positive manner, applying the correct skills, our success rate will be better than by approaching the task in a ‘knee jerk’ manner.

Your skill as a problem-solver depends on your repertoire of tools and your knowledge of how to use them.  Tackle problems in a systematic manner to achieve sustainable solutions, free of irrational emotion. Systematically applying the formal problem solving steps will help create flexible, workable solutions.

* Remember planning – prevention is better than cure! – effective planning helps to prevent rash decisions which result in problems arising. Set objectives, identify resources and have contingency plans in place.

* Crisis Management – if things go wrong show sound mature skills. Nothing is ever achieved by raving and ranting. Train yourself and set the example. Keep a “cool head” when a problem arises. Do not name, blame and shame!

* Identify the problem – don’t jump to conclusions, evaluate what went wrong and why? Find out what the real problem is, often the real issue is masked. Look for causes and do not treat symptoms.

* Analyse the problem -. Ask questions to uncover core components of the problem, who, what, where, when, why and how?  Gather and evaluate reliable, relevant information in order to make objective decisions based on facts and identify the root cause.

* Be creative, think of ideas “outside the box” – by tapping into the knowledge of others you can expand the range of solutions available.  Encourage everyone to participate utilising brainstorming to find alternative approaches to the problem. This often allows for a fresh, original solution.  New ideas and new understanding often result.

* Making the best decision – look at the alternative solutions and evaluate the options. Focus on the most important things.  List the advantages and disadvantages of each.  Don’t decide until you are ready.  Don’t act on impulse or succumb to decision panic.  Look ahead, try to see how your decision will play out over time and choose the best solution.

* Plan a course of action – decide on the best approach.  Examine all possible options – review the best option contingency plan.  Keep one’s mind firmly on the desired objective of solving the problem.

* Implement the solution – to ensure successful implementation, plan what needs to be done, assess how much time it will take and list what resources are needed.  Figure out what you are going to do and DO IT, try out your solution.

* Evaluate progress and results – make sure that you have carried out your plan and achieved the results you want.  You need to monitor progress and eventually your end result with your original objective.

* Assess the outcome – Document outcomes. Prevent the error being repeated!

Problems are OK.  Everyone has problems.  They are a fact of life.  We couldn’t live without change and stimulation in our environment, and problems provide this.  So it’s all right to have a problem as long as you’re willing to do something about it. 

“Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will” Norman Vincent Peale