Problem solving is one of the key skills required for any role in a corporate starting from a blue collared worker or administrative executive to a managerial role. Problem solving skills are highly impactful and enhance the quality of a persons cover letter, resume or even a proposal that goes from a vendor to a client.
One cannot solve a problem with the same mindset with which the problem was initially created. A majority of people get shocked if the level of the problem is more complex and never think of how it can be solved immediately and waste their time in pointless thoughts of playing a blame game within the organization or just getting depressed, worried getting into a state of panic where the problem may not even exist or the problem may not have come up because of that particular person.
A good example to explain the above is of a famous motivational speaker, consultant and a coach who wrote an advertisement for his famous book release which did not get a single response in the first two days. This motivational speaker began to think that his ad was not effective enough but realized the actual problem when one of his acquaintances called him to notify that the telephone link to his ad was not connecting to their phone lines. The entire problem was with the phone company.
The other side of the coin is that there is always an unknown element in some problems. Planning, structuring and good judgement are important elements that make a problem solving process successful. Although planning and structuring will help make the problem solving process more likely to be successful, but good judgement is an element ultimately determine whether problem solving is a success.
Many successful relationships and businesses fail because of poor problem solving because they do not recognise problems or do not deal with them appropriately. Solving a problem involves a certain amount of risk – this risk needs to be weighed up against not solving the problem.
Stages of Problem Solving
Effective problem solving usually involves working through a number of steps or stages, such as those outlined below. For more detail continue to Stages of Problem Solving.
This stage involves: detecting and recognising that there is a problem; identifying the nature of the problem; defining the problem.
The first phase of problem solving may sound obvious but often requires more thought and analysis. Identifying a problem can be a difficult task in itself, is there a problem at all? What is the nature of the problem, are there in fact numerous problems? How can the problem be best defined? – by spending some time defining the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, this leads to the second phase.
This stage involves: a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem.
Following on from problem identification, structuring the problem is all about gaining more information about the problem and increasing understanding. This phase is all about fact finding and analysis, building a more comprehensive picture of both the goal(s) and the barrier(s). This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature.
Looking for Possible Solutions:
During this stage you will generate a range of possible courses of action, but with little attempt to evaluate them at this stage.
From the information gathered in the first two phases of the problem solving framework it is now time to start thinking about possible solutions to the identified problem. In a group situation this stage is often carried out as a brain-storming session, letting each person in the group express their views on possible solutions (or part solutions). In organisations different people will have different expertise in different areas and it is useful, therefore, to hear the views of each concerned party.
This stage involves careful analysis of the different possible courses of action and then selecting the best solution for implementation.
This is perhaps the most complex part of the problem solving process. Following on from the previous step it is now time to look at each potential solution and carefully analyse it. Some solutions may not be possible, due to other problems, like time constraints or budgets. It is important at this stage to also consider what might happen if nothing was done to solve the problem – sometimes trying to solve a problem that leads to many more problems requires some very creative thinking and innovative ideas.
Problem Solving Skills can be learnt in a more enhanced and systematic way through training workshops and organizational development interventions from highly certified and globally recognized bodies who have proven techniques and hands on experiences to encounter problems. These consultants can prepare organizations to solve real-time workplace problems and individuals in discussing specific ways to use problem solving skills during phone screens and interviews.