Seven Tips for Everyday Problem Solving

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

Let’s face it, if you run a business you’re going to run into problems. Of course some of those will be more difficult than others, and some may even be “opportunities” when examined more closely. Problems nonetheless, and every business has them, and every business leader must resolve them. So, a real competitive advantage for any business is to be able to solve problems both efficiently and effectively. Yes, easier said than done – but here a few tips to help you do so:

1. BELIEVE THAT “THE PROBLEM IS THE PROCESS, NOT THE PEOPLE” – do you know that 85% of performance and operating problems are directly related to the design and management of a business process? And your business is really just a set of processes – sales, marketing, finance, operations, fulfillment, etc – that are simply a sequence of steps intended to deliver a particular result. When you’re not getting the results you expect from any particular process, break it down to specific steps, examine each one, reserve judgment on individuals, and look for activity that isn’t efficient and effective. Discovering the root cause of an issue is the secret to problem solving, i.e. identifying the real problem, and changing the process.

2. LISTEN – to the people who work in and for your business, to those who manage processes, and to the customers you serve. Seek out multiple perspectives when solving problems, and know that seldom is one particular perspective “THE” perspective. Doing so just may enable you to find a whole new, and better, way of doing things.

3. EMPLOY THE 80 / 20 RULE – This rule is as true for operational processes as it is for sales processes. That is, 20% of a total effort usually produces 80% of the result. Always ask “what’s really important here, and where should I be spending my time (or my staff’s time) to maximize results”?

4. USE DATA – Business leaders must be keenly aware of the power of opinions and anecdotal information. Stay clear of off-the-cuff assessments and speculations, and endeavor to support every suggestion or recommendation with the best quantitative data available. Understand that good decisions are based on good information.

5. GENERATE IDEAS THROUGH OTHERS – Business leaders revel in getting the best out of the people they work with. They know that great ideas can come from those who actually get their hands dirty as well as those who are objective outsiders. There are always multiple solutions to problems and opportunities – take time to ask questions and solicit input from others.

6. EXECUTE – Analyzing alternatives, weighing pros and cons, and formulating time and action plans are all good steps to solving problems – but they don’t solve problems. As a business leader you must take action for something to happen. Avoid paralysis of analysis and get moving – take action.

7. FOCUS ON RESULTS – The path to resolution may be difficult – it may even hurt. But avoiding necessary and difficult actions now may be much more painful to your business in the long run. Once you’ve decided on a course of action then begin, as Stephen Covey says, with the end in mind. A relentless focus on the results you need will propel you through difficult times.

Although there may be others, these seven tips will certainly help you solve everyday problems and produce very good results. If you can turn them into personal habits, simply the way you do things, they’ll also uncover a wealth of opportunities for you and your business.


Sigma Resource Group, Inc 521 S. La Grange Rd. Suite 206 La Grange, IL 60525 | T:708.354.4673