What is a Problem?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a problem as:
“A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome”
“A thing that is difficult to achieve”
Businesses can fail because of poor problem solving
This is often due to either problems not being recognised or being recognised but not being dealt with appropriately. Solving a problem involves a certain amount of risk – this risk needs to be weighed up against not solving the problem.
“If you choose to not deal with an issue,
then you give up your right of control over the issue
and it will select the path of least resistance.”
― Susan Del Gatto
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”
― Albert Einstein
Everybody can benefit from having good problem skills as we all encounter problems on a daily basis; some of these problems are obviously more severe or complex than others.
It would be amazing to have the ability to solve all problems efficiently and in a timely fashion without difficulty. Unfortunately there is rarely one way in which all problems can be solved, that do not lead to additional ones.
A business is usually fine tuned in that every employee has his or her own job function and tasks. When problems arise therefore, it can be difficult to drop everything to resolve the problem or to work on the problem without it having an impact on the day-to-day work and thus causing additional problems.
Trying to solve a complex problem on your own however, can be a mistake. The old adage: “A problem shared is a problem halved” is sound advice.
Talk to Award Consultancy and establish whether having additional pairs of eyes with the available time to dedicate to the problem can help your business to achieve your goals. Whether it is a problem with your hygiene standards, a lack of training or sourcing goods at more competitive prices, Award Consultancy are experienced consultants with the know-how, ability and contacts to help support you and provide practical advice and solutions.
You can’t solve a problem until you’re asking the right question.
Effective problem solving usually involves working through a number of steps or stages, such as those outlined below.
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.
Structuring the Problem:
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 goals and the barriers.
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 brainstorming 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.
Making a Decision:
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 such as 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.
Finally, make a decision on which course of action to take – decision-making is an important skill in itself.
This stage involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action.
Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During implementation more problems may arise, especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully.
The last stage is about reviewing the outcomes of problem solving over a period of time, including seeking feedback as to the success of the outcomes of the chosen solution.
The final stage of problem solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. Monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred can achieve this. It is good practice to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that occurred.