There are many facets within the realm of management and leadership development. In order to grow, effective managers remain teachable and submit to learning and developing the skills that are necessary in management and leadership. The most basic skills within the process of problem solving include listening, asking questions, analyzing, developing a plan, and making decisions.
Solving a problem and reacting to a problem is not the same thing. It is easy to take the approach of reacting because the appearance in this response is that a decision has been made quickly. However, reacting to a problem is not solving the problem as the same problem may continue to occur without appropriate resolution.
The process of problem solving is a sequence of analysis. The problem is first defined, analyzed for understanding, reviewed for cause, examined for responsibility, prioritized in order of importance, approach to resolve is developed, the best solutions are decided, plans are organized, and action is taken.
Define the Problem
When management is faced with a problem, there are several questions that need to be asked in order to effectively define a problem. Ask what is the problem? How is the problem occurring? Where is the problem occurring? When is the problem occurring? Who is the problem affecting? What is the problem effecting? Why is the problem occurring? What are the causes? Self analysis, collaboration, and feedback from others may be needed to develop a well-rounded understanding of the problem. Avoid pointing fingers and blame, as these are reacting to the problem, not defining the problem. Focus should remain on identifying and fully understanding the problem in order to address it effectively.
Organize the Details
Some problems can be complex or overwhelming and may require more investigation than expected. To organize the details, take notes. Write down the details, the description, and the steps to mentally replay the actions that lead to the problem. Verify the problem by discussing the details and analysis with a peer or other senior authority.
Prioritize the Problem
Before exhausting time, resources, and in some cases money into the problem, take time to prioritize the importance or urgency of the matter. In most cases, management may be faced with other problems, situations, and scenarios that need to be addressed. Prioritizing involves reviewing the issues collectively, classifying each in order of importance or urgency, and making a decision on which ones will be addressed first, second, third and so on.
Decipher the Causes
In realistic environments, it is impossible to see and know everything all of the time. Therefore, it is important to ask questions. Gather input from others that were either involved or directly affected. Take note of the information provided. Take note of your opinions and suspicions. Write down your account of what you believe is happening, including how, why, and with whom.
Confront the Problem with Solutions
Consider your options. Which would most likely be the best solutions, with the best results? Which will incur the least amount of resources, time, or money? Will there be any short-term or long-term effects? Will production or performance suffer as a result? What are the risks? Which solution is the most realistic to accomplish? What systems or processes are in place, should change occur? Are there any new policies or procedures that need to be implemented or amended? Who will be responsible for implementation and management the solution?
Effective problem solving is taking responsibility to make a decision. After careful review and analysis, there should be enough data gathered to make an informed decision. Some of the primary responsibilities in management include making decisions. The ability to do so or not will determine the effectiveness or not. Establish goals, expectations, and consequences to avoid recurrences of the problem or those of similar nature in the future. Expect change. Decisions are sometimes tough and cannot be avoided. Evaluate your experience and consider what you have learned. What new knowledge, understanding, skill or awareness did you learn as a result of the experience? What additional insight, solution success, did you gain in the process of your efforts.