With as many problems as we are all faced with in our work and life, it seems as if there is never enough time to solve each one without dealing with some adversity along the way. Problems keep mounting so fast that we find ourselves taking short-cuts to temporarily alleviate the tension points – so we can move onto the next problem. In the process of Effective and Efficient Problem Solving, we fail to solve the core of each problem we are dealt; thus we continuously get caught in the trap of a never-ending cycle that makes it difficult to find any real resolutions. Effective and Efficient Problem Solving is the essence of what leaders exist to do. As leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems – which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand. We must be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organization and people we serve. But the reality of the workplace finds us dealing with people that complicate matters with their corporate politicking, self-promotion, power-plays and ploys, and envy. Silos, lack of budgets and resources, and many other random acts or circumstances also make it harder for people to be productive.Competitors equally create problems for us when they unexpectedly convert a long-standing client, establish a new industry relationship, or launch a new product, brand or corporate strategy. Mergers & acquisitions keep us on our toes and further distract us from solving existing problems by creating new ones.As Karl Popper, one of the most influential 20thcentury philosophers of science, once eloquently stated, “All life is problem solving.” I’ve often contended that the best leaders are the best problem solvers. They have the patience to step back and see the problem at-hand through broadened observation; circular vision. They see around, beneath and beyond the problem itself. They see well-beyond the obvious. The most effective leaders approach problems through a lens of opportunity.Leaders who lack this wisdom approach problems with linear vision – thus only seeing the problem that lies directly in front of them and blocking the possibilities that lie within the problem. As such, they never see the totality of what the problem represents; that it can actually serve as an enabler to improve existing best practices, protocols and standard operating procedures for growing and competing in the marketplace. They never realize that, in the end, all problems are the same – just packaged differently.
A leader must never view a problem as a distraction, but rather as a strategic enabler for continuous improvement and opportunities previously unseen.Whether you are a leader for a large corporation or a small business owner, here are Effective and Efficient Problem Solving techniques below:
1. Transparent Communication
Problem solving requires transparent communication where everyone’s concerns and points of view are freely expressed. I’ve seen one too many times how difficult it is to get to the root of the matter in a timely manner when people do not speak-up.Yes, communication is a fundamental necessity. That is why when those involved in the problem would rather not express themselves – fearing they may threaten their job and/or expose their own or someone else’s wrong-doing – the problem solving process becomes a treasure hunt. Effective communication towards problem solving happens because of a leader’s ability to facilitate an open dialogue between people who trust her intentions and feel that they are in a safe environment to share why they believe the problem happened as well as specific solutions.
Once all voices have been heard and all points of view accounted for, the leader (with her team) can collectively map-out a path toward a viable and sustainable solution. As fundamental as communication may sound, don’t ever assume that people are comfortable sharing what they really think. This is where a leader must trust herself and her intuition enough to challenge the team until accountability can be fairly enforced and a solution can been reached.
2. Break Down Silos
Transparent communication requires you to break down silos and enable a boundary-less organization whose culture is focused on the betterment of a healthier whole. Unnecessary silos invite hidden agendas rather than welcome efficient cross-functional collaboration and problem solving.Organizational silos are the root cause of most workplace problems and are why many of them never get resolved. This is why today’s new workplace must embrace an entrepreneurial spirit where employees can freely navigate and cross-collaborate to connect the problem solving dots; where everyone can be a passionate explorer who knows their own workplace dot and its intersections. When you know your workplace dot, you have a much greater sense of your sphere of influence. This is almost impossible to gauge when you operate in silos that potentially keep you from having any influence at all.
In a workplace where silos exist, problem solving is more difficult because you are more likely dealing withself-promoters – rather than team players fostered by a cross functional environment.. When you operate in a siloed environment where everyone wants to be a star, it becomes increasingly difficult to help make anything or anyone better. This is when problem solving becBreaking down silos allows a leader to more easily engage their employees toget their hands dirty and solve problems together. It becomes less about corporate politicking and more about finding resolutions and making the organization stronger.
3. Open-minded People
Breaking down silos and communication barriers requires people to be open-minded. In the end, problem solving is about people working together to make the organization and the people it serves better. Therefore, if you are stuck working with people that are closed-minded, effective problem solving becomes a long and winding road of misery.