Everyone experiences problems at work, but how we approach these problems makes all the difference in how well we resolve them in an efficient manner. In fact, the basics for business problem solving are not too much different from how we solve problems in our private lives. That said, we must first recognize there is a problem; second, identify the cause of the problem, third; gather all facts relating to the problem and, fourth, review the options available for solving the problem.
Below, you will find five steps for helping you solve even the most complex problems.
Define the problem
Ask yourself what the problem is. A clear understanding of the problem is the first step in solving it. If you are discussing a problem with a team member, don't assume that all parties involved define the problem in the same manner. Make sure that everyone agrees what the problem is so that there isn't any type of misunderstanding(s).
Understand the root cause(s) of the problem
We all want to resolve the problem, but we first need to find the root cause of the problem. Was it miscommunication? Was it the failure to follow certain processes or procedures? Understanding the root cause will help prevent the problem from happening again.
List possible solutions to the problem(s)
Go to a white board or flip chart and write out a list of possible solutions. It pays to spend extra time on the list, especially if the problem is rather complex in nature or requires communication with a team member, department or remote division to solve the problem.
Select the best possible solution
Rank the solutions in order, with #1 being the best solution. Don't forget to look at the cost(s) associated with each possible solution, too.
Make a decision to take action
Don't wait for the problem to grow out of hand, as it could have a huge ripple effect on your organization, especially if there is a customer involved. In addition, the longer the problem goes unresolved, the more stressful the problem can become for everyone involved. Also, new problems could arise at any time that can distract from solving the old problems if one waits.
Accepting responsibility for the consequences of actions taken or decisions made is the reason most people shy away from taking a leadership role in problem solving. But you don't have to be afraid, as people who are good at problem solving are some of the most valuable and respected people in business.
Need help or want more information about solving business problems? Contact Cindy McSwain using the information below.
Senior Vice President
Cindy McSwain leads AGH’s outsourcing services group. Her team provides payroll, accounting, funds disbursement, controller, and other financial outsourcing services to numerous clients throughout the U.S. Prior to directing the outsourcing group, Cindy served AGH’s audit clients for 10 years, working with a wide range of middle-market, closely held and family-owned clients.
Her current clients cross many industry sectors, including manufacturing, distribution, restaurants, retailers, medical, and not-for-profit. She has participated in numerous SEC filings and public registrations and has experience in mergers and acquisitions. Cindy is a certified public accountant and a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.
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