Many people’s jobs consist in solving unexpected problems with maximum swiftness. This is why developing good problem solving skills should be at the top of everyone’s self-improvement to-do lists. Solving problems can be a matter of thinking out of the box, but most often is a matter of taking a step by step approach that delivers results.
Here are the stages of an efficient problem solving process:
1. Identifying the problem you’re confronting. This is the diagnostics stage of the problem solving process, and it’s a vital stage. You understand there is a problem, but you need to correctly identify it. Because you can’t cure something if you don’t know what it is. Often enough, a problem mostly manifests itself through various symptoms, and handling only the symptoms will probably lead to these ‘false problems’ reoccurring in the future.
2. Understanding the bigger picture. After you’ve correctly identified the issue, you need to take some time and observe. Check any documents that might give you an idea about how to solve the problem. The importance of this phase is directly proportional with the difficulty of the problem.
3. Making a decision. Think of ways in which to solve the problem. If your entire team was assigned to solve the problem involve everyone in the solution finding process, as each member brings a unique perspective regarding the issue. After compiling a list of potential solutions to the problem, it is time to choose the best one. Of course, there are various factors you need to take into account when thinking of the best solution to a problem, and you’re often going to find that you have to prioritize when making a decision.
4. Implementing the solution. You need to keep an eye on the results of your solution. If something seems amiss, make sure you’ve correctly identified the problem.
5. Monitor progress. You need to measure the efficiency of your solution. A great idea is to request feedback from people who are implementing it, or from those working directly with them. It often pays to keep notes of problems and of the solutions found. You never know when you’re going to deal with something similar in the future, and your past experiences may just well help you save a lot of time.