No matter what field you’re in, problem-solving skills are key to career success. Employers know this, and showing off your skills can help you land the job of your dreams. But what if problem-solving doesn’t come naturally to you? Become a better problem solver by following this six-step process.
Identify and Assess
First, identify and define the problem as specifically as possible. Then, assess its scope and its likely impact: will this cost your company $100 or $1 million? Are 50 customers affected or 5,000? Slow down and put some real thought into this step, as you’ll never get your arms around a problem you don’t understand.
Get to the Root of the Issue
Next, dig into the problem to find its root cause. Mitigating the damage might be necessary for the meantime, but you won’t truly solve the problem until you get to its cause.
Different techniques help you dig into problems, from simply asking “Why” five times to drawing a detailed diagram of possible causes. Exactly which technique you use is not important. What is important is that you put on your detective hat and do the work.
When you understand the problem and its root cause, you’re ready to brainstorm solutions. The bigger the issue, the more brainstorming you’ll need to do. Theme Park designers often refer to this as the “blue sky” phase…because the point is to dream up big, creative ideas without censoring yourself. Capture the possibilities you come up with on paper or in a database and don’t rule out any of them in this stage.
After you finish brainstorming, go back through your list of ideas and carefully evaluate each one. You can make a list of pros and cons or just talk through each solution with your team. At this point, narrow down your list to just a handful of feasible solutions with strong benefits.
Now you’re ready to make your final decision. Depending on the nature of the problem and your own expertise and authority, you might decide alone or in tandem with other people. Or maybe you don’t have final decision-making power, and you’ll send the problem and your shortlist of solutions up the chain. If the decision is up to you, take some time to reflect and then follow your gut.
Implement and Monitor
The last step is to actually implement the solution you chose and then monitor its effectiveness. Turning a decision into an action plan can be tough, but it’s worth the effort. Follow up frequently to see whether your new solution is working as planned.
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If you’re in the market for a new job, contact Total Staffing Solutions. With over 20 years of experience, we know how to match you with your next position.