One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is to solve problems; finding the answers to difficult questions that are sometimes a source of great perplexity and distress for the organization often falls to an organization’s leaders.
A company’s success depends on having managers who are strong problem-solvers. Issues arrive in all sizes, ranging from daily nuisances to organizational crises.
Managers who have the ability to systematically think through the facts, diagnose the situation, and find an accurate and workable solution will help the business thrive and prosper.
Effective problem-solvers are able to guide teams towards the achievement of goals by eliminating frustration, confusion, and misunderstandings before they become unmanageable.
They build cooperation and collaboration between individuals, eliminate the need for rework, and foster continuous improvement.
The best managers can often sense problems with keen insight.
They may notice a deviation from standard team performance, such as a missed deadline or an unmet sales goal—and when the team’s plans go off the rails, these managers automatically begin the problem-solving process.
Fortunately, all managers can learn to solve problems more effectively by using this four-step process:
1. Identify and Define the Problem
Alert managers constantly watch for signals, symptoms, and signs that problems may exist. Once they see a potential issue, they think through whether this is a problem they can solve and whether it will make a critical impact on the team or organization.
Once the problem has been defined as a priority, they create a clear, quantitative problem statement and describe the situation in specific, objective terms without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
2. Analyze the Problem
The best problem-solvers analyze patterns and ask questions about what, who, when, where, and how much the problem has affected the business.
They are able to isolate and define the root cause of the issue so that once it’s been resolved, it’s unlikely to recur.
3. Develop Solutions
While problems sometimes come with easy answers, managers must be able to avoid the tendency to be impulsive and make snap decisions.
Instead, they use techniques like brainstorming ideas, creating prioritized lists, and evaluating the time, cost, and technology involved to assess the situation and design a long-term solution.
4. Plan and Act
Once the best solution has been identified, a good manager develops a solid implementation plan. This plan should include steps that will be taken to move forward, as well as contingency plans that will help the manager handle potential roadblocks.
He or she must also secure the commitment of others, mobilize them to act, and hold them accountable for their responsibilities.
The problem-solving process is a never-ending cycle of planning, doing, checking, and acting, while also monitoring the situation and the outcomes. As needed, managers make adjustments to their plans so that the team can continue to move towards the solution that will lead them to better business results.