Coming out of ‘problems’ through systems

A successful professional is one who knows the way out when stuck with a problem at work. Be it strict deadlines, unavailability of resources, unfriendly colleagues, or any other difficult situation at work, problem solving skills are desirable qualities if one wishes to succeed.

Problem solving and decision making are part of our everyday life. One can easily decide what to eat for dinner or what to wear, but some problems are challenging and need thorough thinking and consideration especially if the situation is unforeseen and uncommon.

There are many ways to solve problems. Common ways include trial and error, brainstorming and getting help from friends and family depending upon the nature of problem. In depth problem solving may have solved similar problems, use of analogy/ hypothesis, creative thinking etc. Here are some systematic techniques that can help when confronted with indecision or problem that need to be solved almost at all levels:

Recognize the problem: first recognize that a problem exists and that solving the difficulty is worth while. Approach the decision making process with a positive attitude and view the situation as an opportunity or challenge. Have confidence and willingness to devote time and effort to finding an appropriate solution to the problem.

Define and understand the problem: explain the problem what went wrong, its symptoms and impact. When faced with many difficulties, prioritize problems and deal with them one at a time. At work it is pertinent that a manager and his team understand the problem in the same way.

Check the facts: generate all possible ideas through different methods and write them down. Eliminate the ones which are not required. Examine each option, and think about how realistic each is for execution, and its potential drawbacks. Then test them to know the chances of solving the problem. If they don’t work, think of alternative solutions.

Think of long term solutions: fix symptoms for immediate relief, for instance, taking an aspirin for headache provides instant relief. If possible prevent the problems from occurring again. Like the aspirin does nothing to prevent the next headache.

Choose and bundle a number of options together that are effective. Implement solutions completely. At work, solving a big problem is like a project; as a manager use project management skills to solve it effectively. Identify tasks, adjust assignments and keep track of what is due when. Get support from the management.

“Come up with solutions and not problems”- look for solution owners rather than problem owners. Helping with a solution is much more fun than being blamed for the problem. Involve everyone who can actively contribute to the problem solving effort.

Communicate about the progress. Don’t leave people guessing. One may get support and understanding if you’re honest about what is happening. Successful completion of each task entails definition and timely action. Specify when it is due and what standards must be met to avoid delays. Implement the solution whole heartedly and give it a best shot.

Appreciate participants thank everyone who helped. Thanking encourages people to help you next time. Ensure that everybody knows what you and your team have achieved.

Working through this process is not easy. It takes time and attention. A problem is like a curve in the road. Tackle it and one will find himself on the right path.

Problems crop up in every organization and an efficient manager has to evolve systems so that problems are brought to the notice of concerned supervisors and managers well in advance so that a timely corrective action can be taken.

Most corporate companies usually started with one man’s dream. Then, a like minded person came into partner and supports the first person.

The next step involves a group of people joining the vision and, finally, the firm slowly expands to become a large corporation. When a company keeps growing in terms of sales and revenues, the number of transactions it sees also grows.

Now that is where the leaders and founders may not have the time to keep looking at, as they have to focus on the larger picture. For every problem or small movement, there should be systems in place to monitor and supervise it. And, since these systems alone cannot be helpful, the department in charge should also ‘personally’ observe the details.

Firstly, create a system to regularly record transactions. The first step in creating a system is to list down what is necessary to know. One cannot try and make a perfect system on the first day itself. Take one step at a time. A system could be initially just a note book or a simple Excel file. As requirements grow the organization can invest in better software programs, or even an ERP program. But first, start from a simple system.

Now creating systems isn’t enough. A manager may have also to control the systems. No system is complete without a person being on top of it. Therefore, the next step is to have a daily and regular supervision. In the initial stages, managers/supervisors will have to give more time to understand methods are working properly. Then, as one gets a grip over the methods, monitor them from time to time.

This is the best way to keep people on their toes, and has remained so for years. This method is not only for companies, but also for schools, homes and all these places where a person has to lead a group of people.

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