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10 Steps to Solving Problems At Work

10 Steps to Solving Problems at Work

10 Steps to Solving Problems at Work

Ten steps to successfully solving problems in the workplace:

  1. Get the facts.
  2. Define the problem.
  3. Find the structure of the problem.
  4. Find the origin of the problem.
  5. Identify the main players.
  6. Determine the chronological sequence.
  7. Assemble resources available.
  8. Formulate a corrective plan.
  9. Intelligently implement the plan.
  10. Monitor the impact and return to step one.

1. Get the facts.

Before you invest time and effort, get the facts.

Many problems that people talk about, are imaginary. It is important not to waste time on imaginary problems.

Sherlock Holmes quote: "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

2. Define the problem.

When we are sure that the problem is real, then our next step is to define the problem.

The problem is the gap that exists between "the current situation", and "the desired situation". Our definition should include a full description of both.

The solution to the problem is finding how to bridge the gap.

3. Identify the structure of the problem.

Every problem is composed of subset parts. Analyse the problem and break it down into its subset parts.

It is mentally much easier to deal with a number of smaller problems, by taking many smaller steps, than to solve the problem, in a single giant leap.

4. Identify the origin of the problem.

Everything has origins. If we want to understand a problem, we investigate its origins. Where, when and how did this problem start?

If we know the problem's origins, we may gather some valuable information on how best to tackle it.

5. Identify the main players.

Work problems always involve people. We need to know who are the main players?

Who did what? And what were their intentions?

We need to understand how each person contributed to the problem and/or how they might contribute to the solution.

6. Identify the chronological sequence.

It is important to understand the chronological sequence of events. Effects never precede causes. We need to uncover the sequence of causes and effects.

If we accidentally invert the order and our understanding of events is wrong, ie whenever someone has in mind a mental model that looks like this: EFFECT -> -> CAUSE, then their understanding is wrong and a solution to the problem becomes impossible.

Consequently, it is vital we have the right chronology.

7. Identify the resources we have available to bear on the problem.

Every action requires resources. Therefore, our action plan will require we assemble physical, financial, technological and human resources.

We need to know what resources we can count on.

8. Formulate a corrective plan.

With the information gleaned in the previous steps, formulate a detailed written plan of action.

The plan is our first theory of how we will bridge the gap between our current state and our desired state.

The plan must be written, detailed, and quickly communicated to all those who need to know.

9. Intelligently Implement the plan.

Theory must be applied. If a good plan is improperly implemented, it can still fail.

Our plan is a theory that must be implemented in a steady, intelligent, systematic and effective way.

10. Monitor the impact and return to step one.

Nothing is perfect. So our plan will not be perfect, and neither will be its implementation. Therefore, the chances are high that the problem will not be solved on the first attempt.

However, we should observe an improvement in the situation. The problem will be reduced, but not yet eliminated. Therefore, we return to step one.

We repeat the process until the gap between the current state and the desired state is closed, to a degree that lies within acceptable limits.

Then we can justifiably say, "Problem solved!".

Problem Solving Training

Our in-house Problem Solving training course will give your staff the knowledge and confidence to handle problems successfully.


About the Author: Chris Farmer

Chris

Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Decision Making and Problem Solving

  • What is the Law of Cause and Effect?
    "Everything happens for a reason" is a commonly used expression, but not necessarily accurate. Everything that happens has a cause, or causes. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
    Read Article >
  • When and How to Use the Five Whys Technique
    Discovering the root cause of a problem is vital to finding a satisfactory solution. The 5 Whys Technique is a method of problem solving based on asking "Why?" five times. Corporate Coach Group have an improved version of the 5 Whys Technique.
    Read Article >
  • The Single Most Important Thing
    Be the best by learning how to pick out the single most important thing, in any situation or conversation.
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  • Influencing Decisions When You're Not the Most Senior Person
    Decisions are usually made by the most senior people in an organisation. But less senior employees can influence the decisions if they develop certain skills and attributes. We examine how you can influence decision-makers.
    Read Article >
  • Five Important Problem-Solving Questions
    Success requires that we solve problems. There are five questions that may be profitably applied to any situation, the answers to which will provide valuable information and help solve any problem.
    Read Article >

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