5 Steps for Problem Solving in the Workplace
Posted on September 26, 2018 by Danny Leffel
No workplace is without its problems. After all, people don’t always get on the same page as one another because they have differences of opinions or don’t interpret information the way they should. Then there are employees who are difficult to collaborate with and make for an uncomfortable work environment. Whatever the source of the problem, there’s no denying it needs to be solved. But there’s not always a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. Check out the following are five problem solving steps to help you create a resolution and return workflow to normal.
1. Figure Out the Problem
As the saying goes, “Knowing is half the battle.” When it’s clear there’s an issue somewhere in the workplace, but no one’s pointing fingers or laying blame, you need to figure out the source of the issue. Tracking down the source is key to creating a solution. Maybe someone in charge of decision making isn’t putting in a strong effort, leaving people unsure of their duties. Or maybe there’s a problem step in a standard process. You’re not going to be able to move forward with a solution until you identify the problem and bring it forward.
2. Create Multiple Solutions to the Problem
You might think you have a good idea to solve a problem, but it might not be as effective as you’d like. Get others involved. Open up the floor to include others in the problem solving process, as their input can provide you with an angle you might not be aware of. Someone who works with the same process repeatedly will have more insight as to what could be fixed or improved.
Having multiple solutions creates an opportunity to keep trying until something works and everyone is satisfied. Sometimes a solution creates more problems than it fixed, and you need to bring in another solution quickly. The more solutions and alternatives you have, the more likely you are to find success.
3. Refine the Problem Solving Process
Did you come up with a couple of good solutions to the problem, but they didn’t quite cover everything? Unfortunately, you might need to go back through each and every step of the plan to solve the problem. It’s not unusual to overlook something because no one’s aware of it. Or, perhaps everyone is aware of it but no one thought to bring it up. Regardless, this means a step got skipped — unintentionally, but skipped all the same. Finding what got skipped might be the all-important part that makes the solution work like a well-oiled machine.
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4. Choose the Best Solution and Keep Backups at the Ready
Pick the top solution that everyone can agree upon and is willing to implement. Be democratic about determining which solution is the best by going to everyone in the operation and asking for their input. Make the feedback anonymous in order to get honest input. You don’t want someone thinking they have to agree with everyone else or risk censure. Someone who’s given the opportunity to offer their opinion on the solution might have something valuable to offer. Alternatively, you can take the input but not implement it if it’s an unpopular solution.
Now that you’ve created multiple possible solutions and have whittled it down to one that makes the most sense, you want to implement the plan and let it get traction to find out if it’s working. If the best plan fails, be ready to put a backup plan in place instead of going back to the drawing board. It’s better to keep refining a solution than to give up and do nothing.
5. Review the Solution After it’s Been Put Into Action
Things can still go wrong, and you can’t just sweep them under the rug. So, don’t assume the solution is going to take care of all the problems and make everyone feel good about the workplace. Do a review once a suitable period of time has passed. Talk to employees, get feedback, and find out where the weak spots are. Find ways to fix them, or if they can’t be fixed, pull out the problem solving process and implement your backup plans. Generating a satisfactory solution for the workplace results in a positive working environment for all.
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