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6 Approaches to Problem Solving For You & Your Team

By Lisa Woods (1785 words)
Posted in Management on June 16, 2013

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Your ability to solve problems impacts success in life, as a team, and ultimately, the success of your business. That’s why it is so important to understand your strengths and weaknesses as you approach problems.  This awareness can help you gage whether or not the situation requires your skill, the skill of another team member or a combination of the two.  Effective problem solving is an opportunity to move forward, rather than mitigate a setback.  If you approach it in that light, your solution changes, your process changes and so does your team dynamic.  As a leader or manager, consider identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your team as they relate to this issue.  Start tackling problems as a powerful team and create a competitive advantage for your organization.

 

Here are Six Common Approaches to Problem Solving:  

How does your mind work?

 

1:  Analytical Problem Solving

An analytical thinker has the ability to get into the detail of a problem, evaluate all components & perspectives to understand it and determine what’s missing.  Analytical thinkers ask questions to fill in any gaps they see in order to foresee next steps.  They have confidence in their ability and make assumptions & decisions because of their constructive fact finding process.  Although their assumptions are credible & decisions well supported, they may not move quickly enough to a solution if they do not have all the facts.  Because their fact-finding process takes time, they may not offer any opinions unless specifically asked.

 

2:  Logical Problem Solving

A logical thinker has the ability to continuously collect detail and put it into sequence, allowing them to see the big picture & evaluate where the problem exists and why.  Then using historical data, they infer solutions based on similar situations.  If this worked before in a similar situation, it will work again in this one.  The problem with inferring solutions based on past situations occurs when past situations do not exist.  When past situations have been exhausted or a new solution is required, the logical problem solver may be at a loss.

 

3: Rational Problem Solving

A rational problem solver has the ability to take information that is available & make assumptions based on that information, deducting the most optimal solution given their personal perspective.  A rational person may use the words “from my perspective here is the problem and the best approach to solve it is xyz in order to achieve what I believe to be the best solution.”  The problem is that although the approach may be rational for that individual, the starting point of that reasoning may be completely unjust to another.  Rational problem solvers often do not see the world from perspectives other than their own.

 

4: Absolute Problem Solving

An absolute problem solver has the ability to see a problem as black or white and a solution as right or wrong.  Absolute thinkers believe there is a right way of doing something and if there is a problem it is because they are unaware of the solution that exists.  They try to find that solution by seeking an authoritative source that can confirm the answer.  These individuals often have difficulty moving past a problem, they do not like making decisions without affirmation that they are moving forward with an accepted approach.  Absolute thinkers also tend to group their thoughts based on information that they have confidence in; inferring a solution that worked elsewhere must work in a parallel situation.

 

5: Creative Problem Solving

A creative problem solver has the ability to envision several outcomes, make assumptions as to what needs to be done to achieve an outcome & is willing to take risks because they have confidence in their own judgment.  Creative thinkers start from scratch and are not limited by steps or processes; instead they create unique paths and new solutions.  The limitation of creative problem solving is often that there is no limit to the creative process.  If a problem has a deadline or budget constraint, creative thinkers may struggle because they have difficulty focusing and can lose sight of more obvious solutions.

 

6: Positive Problem Solving

A positive problem solver has the ability to compartmentalize a problem as an individual event and seek solutions with an open mind.  Positive thinkers are not restricted by fears or past results, instead they predict improvement and are more open to finding ways of achieving it.  Thus they listen for opportunities to improve and collaborate.  The limitation of positive thinkers is that they may not hold situations or individuals accountable when they are required to do so.  This makes it possible that problems reoccur several times before solutions are put in place because they are not pragmatic enough to solve the issues.

  

So which approach to problem solving do you usually take?  Do you find that it works for you all the time?  Some of the time?  Never?  Some people are naturally skilled at one approach vs. another because that’s where their mindset takes them.  But when you understand the different paths, you can open the door to the best problem solving technique for a given situation.

 

What about the people on your team?  Chances are you have more than one type of problem solver among you.  I challenge you to cultivate these talents and make them into a competitive advantage.  Your team’s ability to solve problems quickly, creatively and successfully can be a competitive advantage for your organization.  It is one thing to say your problem has been solved; it is another to say that you were able to use it as a means of improving and strengthening your business; catapulting you forward.  That should be your goal, leave the bandages for your competition! 

 

4 Steps to Making Your Team’s Problem Solving Strategy a Competitive Advantage

 

1)   Take yourself and each of your team members and align them with one of the 6 problem solving STRENGTHS:

  1. Has the ability to get into the detail of a problem and evaluate all components & perspectives to understand it and determine what’s missing. 

  2. Has the ability to continuously collect detail and put it into sequence, allowing them to see the big picture & evaluate where the problem exists and why.

  3. Has the ability to take information that is available and make assumptions based on that information, deducting the most optimal solution given their personal perspective.

  4. Has the ability to see a problem as black or white and a solution as right or wrong by seeking authoritative approval & consensus.

  5. Has the ability to envision several outcomes, make assumptions as to what needs to be done to achieve an outcome & is willing to take risks because they have confidence in their own judgment. 

  6. Has the ability to compartmentalize a problem as an individual event and seek solutions with an open mind. 

 

2)   Next take the same approach to lining up yourself and your team with one or more of the 6 problem solving WEAKNESSES:

  1. They may not move quickly enough to a solution because they do not have all the facts.

  2. When past comparative situations have been exhausted or a new solution is required, they may be at a loss.

  3. They often do not see the world from perspectives other than their own.

  4. They often have difficulty moving past a problem, they do not like making decisions without affirmation that they are moving forward with an accepted approach.

  5. If a problem has a deadline or budget constraint, they may struggle because they have difficulty focusing and can lose sight of more obvious solutions.

  6. They allow problems to reoccur several times before solutions are put in place because they are not pragmatic enough to solve the issues.

 

3)   Discuss the Strengths & Weaknesses Problem Solving evaluation process with your team as a whole and the individual evaluation with each team member one-on-one.

  1. Train your team on each of the problem solving mindsets, making it an open discussion amongst them.  This will help you tackle problems more strategically when they do indeed occur. 

  2. Work with each individual to overcome their weaknesses by leaning on other team members who can use their strengths to assist. 

  3. Once you meet with everyone individually it is up to you whether or not to share the conclusions with the entire team.  Personally I believe this is an important step, but it really depends on your team and if you think they are ready to share the information.  You may choose to wait until positive steps have been taken to improve weaknesses, then share.  Team members may also decide to share the information on their own.

 

4)   You are ready to tackle your next business problem!

Assign each problem to one team member to lead the solution process based on their strengths.  Assign support to the leader based on their weaknesses.  This team approach will get you to the best, most competitive solutions faster.

 

Good Luck!

 

 

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Written by Lisa WoodsPresident & CEO ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, dynamic business leader & author with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she provides Management Tools, Do-It-Yourself Training, and Business Assessments for small to mid size companies, Lisa utilizes her experience with integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and strategic revitalization to help other companies succeed.  Closing the gap between strategy and hierarchy through the use of effective communication skills, Lisa's techniques successfully develop employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors that collectively exceed objectives.

 

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At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career.

 

 

Comments (4)

Dawn Frail posted on: June 17, 2013

Great article to highlight need to incorporate various strengths.
Problem solving and decision making styles are influenced by many factors, including your psychological type (Myers-Briggs).
For those who use psych-type to improve leadership ability, you may recognize these functions (among others) in the 6 approaches in the article.
1. Sensing
2. Sensing/Thinking
3. Intuition
4. Thinking
5. Intuition
6. Intuition

What's not obvious from the descriptions given in the article, is where the Feeling preference comes into play. As you listen to people work through the problem, listen for for comments and concerns about the impact on the people. That would be a good clue that you're working with a Feeling type.

Great article Lisa.

Tony Asefi posted on: June 17, 2013

Good article, thanks for sharing.

Eero posted on: July 11, 2013

I really like the concept and it gives great guidance for mapping accross the team. How do you tackle the time dimension when there is a long term goal and short term goals, that might contradict?
We aslo use the dimension of positioning problems based on importance in diferent timespan to not fokus and throw al heads in to what's inportant in the longer perspective all the time.

Lisa Woods posted on: July 11, 2013

Thanks for your question Eero. I think it is important to utilize project management processes for projects and decisions that take place over time. By establishing milestones, with assigned responsibility, timing and handoffs, it allows each individual to focus on their strengths without losing touch with the purpose of the overall issue. It is the project manager's role to keep the entire team on track and informed.

What are your thoughts?

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