Problems are inevitable in the workplace, so developing problem-solving skills is helpful for management to learn how to identify problems as they arise and determine effective solutions. Studying different methods for problem-solving can help leaders prevent and approach difficult situations in a positive, relevant and successful manner.
Problem solving is a universal job skill that applies to any position and every industry. While everyone is tasked with some form of problem-solving in their workplace, not all employees are good at it.
Understanding the critical components involved in problem-solving will help you improve this skill set and demonstrate your expertise to employers. Strong problem solvers are a valuable addition to any team.
The four stages of problem-solving
You can use many different approaches this topic, but you’ll typically work through four distinct stages no matter what route you take.
Understanding each step of the process will help you hone your problem skills to better serve you along your journey toward a smart, workable solution.
(1) Define the problem:
Identify the issue that you’re dealing with. Observe the problem area closely to form a detailed image of what’s wrong. Analyze employee behavior, workplace policies, and operating procedures. Keep your focus on the problem at this point, and resist the urge to define the problem in terms of a solution. For example, “We need to improve training procedures” speaks to the solution more than the problem. “Sales documentation is inconsistent” better defines the issue.
(2) Brainstorm alternatives:
This is one of the most important stages of problem-solving. It requires a careful balance of creativity and logical thinking. Compare all possible alternatives. Analyze the money, time, staff, and resources necessary for each approach as well as the return that you can expect from various strategies.
(3) Choose the best strategy:
Strong decision-making is essential at this stage. After carefully considering all your options, you must select the best strategy for your problem and stick with your choice. Employees who waver or struggle to commit to a single plan don’t make good problem solvers because they get stuck at this essential point in the process.
(4) Implement your solution:
Implementation is the critical peak of the problem-solving process. This is where you draw up an action plan, share it with the appropriate personnel, and follow through with your chosen approach.