I know a Vice President (VP) who hangs a sign outside his office that says: “Don’t Bring Me Problems … Bring Me Solutions!”
What he really meant by that sign is: “if you don’t know how to solve problems, then you don’t have a place in the organization” … makes sense now, right?
Problem solving is one of your most important professionals skills because regardless of your job description or position, “you are hired to solve problems“.
How well you deal with problems will be a determining factor in how successful you are at work or in life.
While the problems that business analysts solve are different from those of data analysts or computer programmers, a common set of tools or techniques will still work for solving problems regardless of the career or job!
A problem in its simplest form, is an obstacle which prevents you from reaching your targeted goals. Problems can frustration you or cause you to give up on you intended goals.
However, with the right problem-solving skills such as those outlined in this article, you can create a solution that is effective and / or agreeable for all who are affected!
Regardless of your career (computer programming, software testing, business analysis, project management), you may use the techniques discussed in this article to solve the problems facing you, your team or organization namely:
Identify the problem > Explore the problem > Identify possible solutions > Select the best solutions > Evaluate solutions > Create an action plan > Implement the solution …
Now I will explain each step in detail ….
Step 1 – Identify the Problem
A good way to identify or define a problem is to write down a concise statement which summarizes the problem, and then write down where you want to be after the problem has been resolved.
One of the objectives in this step is to get as much information about the problem as possible. It may be helpful to divide the symptoms of the problem into hard and soft data …
Hard data includes facts, statistics, goals, time factors, and history.
Soft data includes feelings, opinions, human factors, attitudes, frustrations, personality conflicts, behaviors, hearsay, and intuition.
The other objective is to describe: “what a good solution looks like or the criteria for identifying good solutions” …
Step 2 – Explore the Problem
In this step of problem solving, your focus is on: “asking questions or gathering more information“.
For example, you may consider using a questionnaire or survey to gather more information.
Do not make the mistake of assuming you know what is causing the problem without first making the effort to fully investigate it first!
Try to “see the problem from a variety of viewpoints“. Think about how the problem or issue affects other people and not just about how it affects you.
Step 3 – Identify Possible Solutions
Now, find out all the “possible alternative or optional solutions” to the problem.
Your goal is to create a comprehensive list of all the conceivable alternatives to the problem using a variety of creative techniques.
Make sure to ask each team member for input because this helps create a feeling of ownership in the decision-making process and also helps create a consensus later on when it is needed.
Step 4 – Select the Best Solutions
In this step, the team works toward an agreement on the best solutions to the problem. This is done by testing all previously selected solutions using the decision-making criteria agreed upon by the team.
Eliminate the solutions that do not meet your solution requirements and focus on those solutions that can be used.
Your team’s goal is to list all the solutions that can best solve both the problem and and any other issues that are a consequence of the problem.
Step 5 – Evaluate Solutions
After the team chooses all the qualifying solutions, then evaluate each solution so that you can choose the best.
Start by writing them down all the considerations or questions which need to be applied or considered by your team in choosing the best solution to their problem.
Some of the questions which you may want to consider or apply are:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each solution?
Would the solution really solve the problem?
Do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages?
Does the solution conform to the criteria formulated by the team?
What are the long and short-term effects of this solution if adopted?
Step 6 – Create an Action Plan
Once you have selected a possible solution, it’s time to put the solution into an action plan.
Start by creating an action plan, that divides the solution into small sequential, measurable tasks.
When dividing the solution into tasks, be sure to include a timeline which includes; what is to be done, and who will do it.
If the solution is complex due to having too many tasks, dependencies or if it requires a large number of people to take action, consider using a project management software like Microsoft (MS) Project.
Step 7 – Implement the Solution
Sometimes it is likely that the teams who choose the solution are not the ones who will implement it. If this is the case, the members who select the solution should also explain or document why they made the choice for the ones who will implement it.
Showing that your problem solving process is an organized and orderly process will convince others that your solution is valid.
Implementing solutions requires monitoring and controlling deviations. And, after the solution is implemented, you should evaluate the results.
Jot down the lessons learned as part of your organization’s formal, problem solving process because the lessons learned list will help your organization deal with future problems or challenges in a methodical, process controlled fashion.
Now that you understand how to solve problems effectively, you can face them more easily.
By getting into the habit of applying these 7 steps when faced with a problem, you will discover better, radically different, more effective solutions or results for your career!
In Closing …
You have heard it said that no problem in life is permanent or that every problem has a solution.
All you really need to gain “effective problem solving skills” is:
A positive mental attitude (PMA)
An effective process for solving problems such as those outlined in this article and
The will to execute or follow through
Remember that “Every problem is really a gift for you“. Problems are the reason why you and I have jobs today. Tomorrow, if there aren’t any problems to solve, your organization will not need you anymore!