Is Your Problem About People or Money? Effective Problem Solving Strategies for Better Collaboration
Both problem solving strategies and collaboration are important concepts in any organization. With departments working closely with one another and facing a pile of paper works, deadlines and pressure, having great problem-solving skills is indeed necessary. Problems may range from minor (who has the key to the supply room, how to deal with irate customers, who will troubleshoot the computer) to major (how to invest, how to select strategic partners, how to define your business model, how to increase company PR…) and they require solutions to keep the organisation moving. But because the organization is manned by several individuals, the solution must: first, address the problem at hand and second, does not affect the healthy relationship or work culture within the group.
We cannot deny the fact that we all have some sort of relationship with our co-employees, and this must be kept healthy all the time. Effective problem solving must promote better collaboration among employees to ensure the organization is running at an optimum pace and achieving its desired goals.
Resolving problem solving conflicts in the workplace are best approached by doing the following:
1 – Define Problems Correctly.
The first step to solve a problem is to correctly define it. If you do that properly, you are halfway to a solution. In order to define it, you need to collect information to understand it. On the other hand, being too close to or too familiar with a situation can weaken your objectivity and thus your thinking. Let’s say you can’t see the big picture when you’re standing in the middle of it.
When you are working on a problem, the second thing to do is to figure out the best approach to use to find your solution.
You can use Sakichi Toyoda – Toyota’s founder – “five whys” problem-solving technique.
Ask “why” five times to get closer to the root cause of any problem. Each time you answer the question immediately asks another.
Here is an example
- Problem: I can’t start my motorbike. Why?
- Answer: There’s no charge in the battery. Why?
- Answer: My alternator didn’t charge it. Why?
- Answer: My alternator belt broke. Why?
- Answer: Because I never checked it for wear. Why?
“When you sense that something is wrong, instead of letting everybody know about it, first figure out what it is.” ― Fritzyll
2 – Investigating the problem.
After taking the problem into account, it is necessary to investigate. It is important to listen to all sides concerned before arriving at a decision. You need to take into account the people involved, the customer, the supplier, the supervisor, the complacent employee or even the process involved itself. Conferring with the individuals involved with the issue in a diplomatic way will also help you come up with a fair solution.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” ― Albert Einstein
3 – Ideation and reflexion.
Call for a meeting to all the involved employees or department and handle the issue with diplomacy. Lay down what has been said and done, and seek for ideas that are the best ways to approach the problem. Listen to what your subordinates has got to say and decide on solutions and possible alternative solutions that will best address the problem. To tackle this phase of the process I often use different tools like mind maps, post-it analysis or Lego Serious Play.
“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.” ― Malcolm S. Forbes
4 – Right and Left-Brain Thinking
The right and left hemispheres of the brain analyses problems in different manners. The left-brain organizes information and makes decisions more logic. The right brain is more creative and based on guts. While most people rely on their left brains, you should use the right-brain, to solve your problems. Sometimes taking time for a creative moment (left brain) can temporary shutdown the right-brain and this can be helpful.
5 – Implement the solution.
When a doable solution has been arrived, it is now time to implement it. If it will do good for the whole organization, put into writing that policies have been changed. If it will put an employee on the hot seat, it is best to implement the solution with diplomacy between the parties involved. Don’t forget that if you don’t implement a solution it can create frustrations.
“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
6 – Follow through the implementation.
Review how the suggested solution played with the parties involved and determine if it is indeed good for the whole organization. Call for a meeting yet again and ask the involved employees how the implementation has affected their work performance and relationship with co-employees. Ask for feedbacks about areas that need improvement and what part of the solution worked well for them. If the solution is making matters worse, then try again to analyse the root cause of problem for possible alternate solution, implement and follow through about how it affects the organization’s performance.
“You have to make it happen.” – Denis Diderot
Quickly addressing any rift or issue within the organization will help promote problem solving mindset and motivation between affected individuals. To achieve right and fair solutions, your problem solving strategies should include:
- Identifying the problem: How do you collect the data? Are people facing problems trying to solve them? Is the management involving people in this process?
- Investigation: How the process work? Why? How? What? When? Lean Management is a methodology you can use.
- Ideation: scope definition and brainstorming
- Implementation: quick wins or project mode.
Problem solving strategies in the workplace require communication, open-mindedness and follow ups. It is important to have open communication lines from down to top so that all employees will have a venue to air grievances and a chance to be heard and propose solutions. At the same time, it allows transparent room for improvement, whatever the cause of problem may be. Adopting the right problem solving strategies minimizes the rift between your workers, improves customer relations and at the same time, increase production, profit and project better organization image.
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