How to Solve a Problem

Do you have any problems in your organization? What are you doing to solve them? What conversations need to happen? Who do you need to speak to, and listen to? Who are you avoiding? What are you fearing?

Solving problems is the key to organizational health and progress. Neglecting problems is the cause of organizational weakness and collapse. A problem confronted and solved is an improvement. A problem avoided and unaddressed is a cancer.

Hopefully you want to solve problems. Once you gather the appropriate people, such as your leadership team, follow this simple process to solve a problem:

1. Define the problem in one or two succinct written sentences. This is typically the most difficult part of the process; clarifying exactly what is broke and what broke it. Curiosity is your friend. Don’t be quick to accept the initial attempts at defining the problem. Discuss the presentation problem, and then ask additional questions about the “root” issues that are causing the “fruit” issues. Asking questions and listening are key to this first step. Avoid the temptation to begin solving the problem at this point. You will not find the best solution unless you truly get to the root issue and the real problem.

2. Idealize the outcome – In one or two succinct written sentences, describe what it looks like when this problem is solved. This is an application of the principle of beginning with the end in mind. The goal at this point in the process is the set up a clear contrast of where you are vs. where you want to be. Again, this is not the time to discuss how to solve the problem, or how to create the ideal outcome. Just clearly envision and describe what will happen when the problem is solved.

3. Offer multiple (a minimum of 5) solutions that will create the outcome Discipline yourself to only take this step after the other two are completed. The key question for this step is “what else would solve this problem?” Once you get a clear definition of the problem, and a clear ideal outcome defined, people will naturally begin to think of a way to fill the gap between the problem and the solution. By considering multiple solutions, you are more likely to find a better solution. Sometimes the least obvious solution is the best one. Other times, you will return to the first solution offered, but with confidence that you chose the best solution by considering many.

The lesson is simple. You can solve your problems. Problems solved move you forward. Problems neglected hold you back. What problems are you going to solve today?

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