Small Business Problem Solving

Why is it so difficult to get to the real reason a problem exists? What is necessary to identify the root cause of a problem? The difficulty in getting to the key elements of a problem is that you are dealing with multiple, diverse drivers, each one having the potential to steer you in the wrong direction or camouflage the real culprits.

Another reason is that we have been programmed to think and act quickly and hence do not believe we have the luxury of taking the appropriate time to analyze and investigate. We focus on short-term results. And quite frankly, many people do not know how to get to the real source or have the appropriate skill set.

Although each of us may not naturally possess the optimum skill set for problem solving, obtaining the appropriate skills can be attained. So what attributes are necessary? Check them out below!

Being Analytical

The ability to dissect an issue and identify the cause and effect of multiple, related branches. This includes being able to decipher relevant information from irrelevant and reliable data from unreliable data. It takes practice to hone these skills.

With a problem, most of us tend to make decisions in a hurry. We simply execute the first idea that comes into our minds without taking the time to think about the issue at hand.

Being analytical involves taking your time to digest the issue at hand logically before making a judgment. Using this skill, you will analyze all the factors that are related to the problem and come up with a suitable and satisfactory conclusion.

This problem-solving skill is especially important in business when making decisions related to finances, legal issues, and employees.

Being Open-Minded

Welcoming new ideas from yourself and others is very important. You will be hindered if you “think you already know” the answer. Explore and let the process evolve. You will be surprised by what you learn. Most people think they are open-minded but their thinking and actions indicate otherwise. Make sure you are not one of them.

Imitators have a one-dimensional view of life and tend to think that solutions to one problem will work for everything. Innovators, on the other hand, believe in thinking differently about problems.

It has to do with asking several questions about the issue and making solid conclusions that lead to good solutions.

Creativity entails allowing your mind to wander and dig deep into the problems at hand, going beyond the surface and using your critical thinking problem-solving skills to analyze each issue.

Being Inquisitive

Asking questions is the one essential element to getting to the bottom of an issue. Once a question is answered, ask why until you arrive at a reasonable conclusion. Here is an example of how this might be played out:

Q: Why was order 67543 delivered late?
A: Because we were missing a part needed to complete the assembly.

If you stop here you may miss the opportunity to reduce a repeat performance. You may be tempted to just think that it was a purchasing or inventory error and be satisfied, but go deeper.

Q: Why was the part missing?
A: We did not know we needed it.

Q: Why did we not know it was needed?
A: It was not listed in the bill of materials.

Q: Why was it not listed on the bill of materials?
A: Engineering said they had a new part to replace it.

Q: Why wasn’t the new part used, etc.

You get the idea. Keep asking questions until you discover the true reason order 67543 did not ship on time. It is only at this point that you can resolve the issue and increase performance. Do not be shortsighted here. In most cases, when you get to the root of one problem and take steps to make the appropriate corrections, you will be stopping the occurrence of multiple new problems.

Being Patient

As you can see from the example above, it can take some time to unravel the mystery. It may require talking to a variety of people, inside and outside of the company, sifting through a lot of data, waiting for responses, etc. You will be rewarded if you stay focused and wait until you have all of the information needed to uncover the root cause and implement the appropriate corrections.

How many of these attributes do you possess? If you possess most, great. Do you use them to uncover the root cause? If not, begin to practice these skills. Of the four attributes above, analytical may be the most difficult to master. The other three are easy to understand and in most cases just require a change of focus. Exercising your analytical skills may require some training. Having the skills just provides the ability to get to the sources of issues. Putting the skills into action is what will produce results.

Once you are able to unlock the real reason certain events take place, you can start the process of making corrections — the right corrections.

Having Initiative

Having initiative is central to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Not only is it important in terms of customer acquisition, it helps when you have to solve a problem. Proactive entrepreneurs are always looking for new ways to do things, to communicate with their staff and to improve their product or service, inadvertently reducing the risk of having problems in the future.

The initiative of an entrepreneur is developed over time and it shows that you are passionate about your product and determined to succeed; qualities that investors love to see. Any good problem-solver knows how to research, find similarities between themselves and others and use their initiative to seek out good solutions to problems and part of being a good problem-solver is your ability to keep going regardless of how many times you fail.

Being Persistant

Persistence, determination, or perseverance is a key trait of successful people. As problems come in different ways, some are technical and some are financial. In most cases, the more complex the problem, the more that critical thinking and persistence is required.

Persistence is an important problem-solving skill that is often misunderstood by a lot of people. Being persistent does not necessarily mean doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You have to be wise in your decision making and determined to achieve the best outcome through constant evaluation.

Being Flexible

Flexibility or adaptability is the ability to be open-minded and open to new opportunities and change. This is true for the founders of Slack, a billion dollar productivity software company which came about after the founder failed in his quest to create a video game. You should be able to change your mind to suit different situations or circumstances. When trying to solve a problem, not all the solutions that you try out will work. Some can backfire and leave you quite frustrated.

By being flexible, you will be able to apply different solutions to solve an issue. This is far much better than sticking to a single solution that is not yielding any fruits. A flexible person is also open to receiving suggestions from other people who may be experts in solving similar problems. As we have mentioned before, most of us experience similar issues on a daily basis especially in business and knowing who to turn to will make all the difference.

Having Self-Discipline

Finally, when it comes to solving problems, you need to be focused and disciplined. Regardless of how good you are at solving different problems, your efforts may not bear any fruits if you don’t have self-discipline. This is the ability to control yourself and remain focused on finding the solutions to the problem.

Constantly evaluating situations and thinking critically about them require a certain level of discipline which you must have to become successful. By being self-disciplined, you will be able to remain on the right path without being distracted by any external factors. This skill will also help you to be fully committed to finding the best solutions each time.

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