How You Can Be A Problem Solver

In my post on the 4 Ways to be a Daily Problem Solver I shared four, simple but impactful ways to be known as a leader who finds solutions AND one who also builds the capacity of those around her or him.

I’d like to move on to finding a pattern to help you tackle everyday problems at work. A workplace leader needs to move people through a process so that progress can be made and change can be implemented. If not, a team focused on a problem can stay stuck in awareness of the issue, rather than moving through it into a productive pattern of solutions.

Having a process to engage with a problem helps you frame a response and empowers your team. It also stops your emotion or daily pressures from dominating your interactions and clouding your judgement.

An effective process allows for you to choose how to best apply it, it is a framework you deploy in the best way. It can be adapted to be informal or formal in approach, it can explore an issue deeply or allow a light touch, it will facilitate immediate action or at a considered speed, it can be used in a facilitative or a directive style, etc. By being consistent in your response, you can model a process and cascade through your workforce to improve other people’s performance too.

The simple, but practical process, I have seen utilised is to move the sharing and response to a problem through 3 stages of questioning:

  1. Analysis
  2. Assessment
  3. Action

First Analyse the issue.

Start with ensuring you understand what problem/s is being raised. You need to ensure ‘it’ has been fully explained (or maybe even documented). Is it more than one issue? Have you been offered a symptom problem rather than the cause? What is known or unknown? Can you identify the aspects that are in your control, influence or neither? And so on. Through this type of analysis, you will be asking ‘Do we know enough to form a sound judgement?’ Every problem, context and need is different. Rushing in too quickly can mean you spend effort fixing the wrong thing; taking too long can mean you have missed the right time to address the issue.

Next Assess what is important.

The options and issues within this problem need prioritising. For example: as high or low in importance, of a big or small impact, is it short or long term, etc. Most issues can be broken down into constituent parts and assessing what must, should or could be done in an order gives you a plan to take the third step.

Then decide on the Action.

What needs to be done, by when and by whom? A good rule of thumb is to set quick, close and far off targets. For instance, what needs to be done in the next 2 weeks, by 2 months and over 2 years? Or you can ask what is the first thing to do? What involves the most risk or reward?

A good resource for problem solving with a team is the short paper ‘What's the Easiest Thing To Do..?’ in the Difficult Conversations series written by my colleague Andrew Ramwell, Know and Do. Try the 4 questions grid the next time you want to move a team from discussion to action.

The process of Analyse, Assess, Action is short but it is fundamental. Your knowledge as a leader may mean you adapt the terminology or break down a stage to suit the needs of your business but you can still move through the broad process. You can conceive the process in your mind as you talk or write it out to share with others. Why not try these three words the next time someone brings you a problem to solve?

Remember, you are also not alone. Know+Do is a values based consultancy and one of our key values is sharing. We enjoy offering ideas, tips and tools to make the daily leadership experience of others that much more successful! Contact us direct for some friendly inspiration.