Problem Solving
Small Business

A Four-Step Team Approach to Problem Solving

Don’t think you have all the answers to your business challenges. Deploy the team concept.

Too often, leadership teams jump to a solution for solving challenging problems and make tough decisions without considering the true nature of the problem, its root cause and its effect on people and the business. The results are misdiagnosed problems, off-strategy decisions, and unclear and off-target actions, which leads to frustration. Relationships are affected as well. Consider the cost of a flawed decision-making process; the actual cost of your employees’ time, and the cost of a negative outcome on your bottom line. The solution: Employ a stepwise process for making effective decisions and for setting up teams for a successful implementation.

Team Problem Solving – Challenges do not solve themselves. Problem solving and decision making is a core leadership and management skill. Make problem solving a team sport. Avoid trying to solve every problem as an owner or leader for your company – involve your people by giving them the tools to create a positive outcome! 

As a team, apply a purposeful and disciplined approach to solving problems in four steps:  

Define: Clearly define the problem, its root cause, and the effect it is having on your people, finances, business and clients. Ask WHY in order to drill down on the reason for the issue. If possible, quantify the impact. Are you solving the right problem? If not, then restate the problem. Spend most of your time on this first step. 

Aim: Decide on your aim for solving the problem. Setting a specific and measurable goal will keep your team aligned and focused, leading to stronger team ownership of the problem and solution. 

Solve: Now your team is ready to develop ideas that line up with the problem you’re solving. Idea generation is a creative process. First, develop an uncensored list of solutions, then choose the best solution that will achieve your stated aim and that is also attainable. Consider and accept the tradeoffs of your decision. 

Execute: Making a sound decision is just the beginning. Next, develop and implement a plan to achieve your stated goal. Set your team up for success by ensuring there is clarity on who does what, how, by when and WHY. When team members understand the reason for their action, they have greater buy-in. 

Frame each challenge by asking your team: How do we solve for…? This suggests a positive, team orientation to problem solving. The process requires use of effective listening skills to seek understanding and learn from each other. By applying this process, you will strengthen your company’s culture as problem solvers. 

Applying a clear, problem-solving approach will help you and your people draw from past experiences that can help address today’s challenges, and even prepare your staff for crises and situations that will invariably face your business in the future.

About the Author: 

Larry Prince is the CEO of PrinceLeadershipTM, a business consultancy that works with small and middle market companies. Contact: Mobile: 973.670.6304 , email: [email protected] 

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