Improve your Problem Solving Skills

Picture this scenario:

Select employees have been taking later and later lunch breaks despite a strict time limit. There is a strict time limit because management needs all hands on the production floor to ensure that enough widgets are produced by hour.

What are you options? Send out letters of warnings and then reprimands? Notify your boss about the issue and ask for guidance? You need to have a clear leadership style.

Below are six steps to improve your problem solving skills at work.

Here are six steps to improve your problem solving skills:

1. Clearly identify the problem

You may think the problem is tardiness and insubordination but are there other issues at play? For example, is the company break room at least a 5 min walk away from the work floor? Are there refrigerators and microwaves available for staff to use or must they go outside to access food? You may have more than one issue that contributes to the central problem.

2. Gather all information about the problem

Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and gather all the information. This information includes: specific people, time and days when this occurs, any notable incidents (e.g. a new restaurant was added in the building) or increase of staff overtime hours. Get all the information so that you have a clear picture of the situation.

3. Propose solutions and its consequences

For example, you may choose to do nothing and hope that the staff will still meet their production quotas. That is a solution where you are hoping that things will sort itself eventually. Or you may give out warnings and may turn otherwise productive employees into resentful and sluggish workers. It is not enough to solve a problem but to find a solution that has the best payout for the lowest risk or consequence.

If you know your plan will affect another person, you should at the minimum discuss the plan before it is implemented. The affected party or parties may be able to recommend a solution that is far superior to your original idea. In this case you may need to talk with all the staff members as a whole about the tardiness issue.

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4. Put your plan into action. 

Once you decide (with the help of others) on a solution, set a time and do it. No one will respect you as a leader if you waffle or do not enforce your procedure or policy.

5. Be flexible with your solutions

Do not carve any plan into stone, or in other words, do make your solution a permanent fix. Assign a time frame as to when the issue needs to be reviewed and assure that it is effective. Often times we are guilty of putting things on the books that are not effective in the long run.

6. Write down your lessons learned

If all is a success, do not just congratulate yourself for a job well done, write down what happened. You do not have the chronicle the entire situation, but at the very least give a summary of the problem (including dates and affected parties), what was done to remedy the problem, and how to prevent it from occurring again.


Do you have feedback? I would love to read it! Please drop me a line in the comment section below.

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