When you own a small business or are an HR Manager, you’ll come across many problems you haven’t dealt with before. As the lead, you will have had to take problem-solving steps to work out what is causing the problem and how you can move forward without any lasting effects on your business.
The problem-solving formula
When you’re trying to solve a problem, there are some definite stages you’ll go through:
• Identifying the Problem: This sounds obvious, but it’s important. Describe the problem as clearly as possible and try not to consider possible implications at this stage.
• Defining and analysing the problem: This is where you’ll look at what caused the problem and how quickly it needs to be addressed. Try to look at the problem from different perspectives and think about the ways in which it could affect your business.
• Coming up with possible solutions: Here is where you brainstorm. Possible solutions can be as creative as you like; don’t worry about how realistic they are at this stage. Brainstorming can help you get several different perspectives on a problem. Involve your team so you can get different ideas and points of view. You might just find an innovative solution by collaborating effectively.
• Decision-making: Weigh up each solution you and your team came up with. Now you can start to evaluate how realistic each solution is and use this to decide on a solution.
• Implementing and evaluating a solution: Ideally, you will have chosen a solution that fits in with your business goals and your priorities. Now is the time to test your solution, then evaluate how effective it was. If your solution didn’t completely solve the problem, go back through the problem-solving process and try to address the issues that remain unsolved.
Problem-solving tool: The fishbone diagram
The fishbone diagram is a very useful problem-solving tool. It will help you to identify the causes of a problem and helps to structure ideas.
How to use a fishbone diagram:
Using a flipchart, agree on a problem statement. This states what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. Write this just right of the middle of the chart or whiteboard, draw a box around it and a horizontal arrow running to it.
Brainstorm the main causes of the problem and allocate categories, for example ‘People,’ ‘Materials,’ or ‘Environment,’ and write the causes as ‘branches’ from the main arrow.
Look at each category and brainstorm causes of the problem. Write these as a branch from the appropriate category.
Move on then to these causes and ask again why this is a problem and you’ll get sub-causes, which branch off the causes.
When you and your team run out of ideas, look at the chart and concentrate on the areas where ideas are lacking.
Problem-solving as a team
Often the answer to a problem is reached by collaboration and this is why business owners should allow employees to contribute ideas and solutions in the first place. But solving the problem is not the only benefit. If employees are allowed to contribute their ideas, they’ll feel part of something and they’ll be more motivated and engaged, which can only benefit you the business!
Barriers to problem-solving
Why might the team not be used to problem-solving?
Do your Manager’s micromanage every detail so that employees are unable to do anything without their say so?
Do they ask for their ideas and then criticise them if they make a mistake?
Are the team even used to collaborating?
These are all reasons why teams might be unused to problem-solving or reluctant to get involved.
How to encourage team problem-solving
• Give employees some autonomy: If Manager’s trust their employees to come up with a solution to a problem and implement it, they’ll feel like that they are trusted and they’ll be more invested in a positive outcome.
• Don’t punish failure: Failure is part of a business and reacting angrily doesn’t help. Encourage Managers to Instead, ask the team to look at the solution they came up objectively and why it didn’t work. Next, challenge them to come up with a new and improved solution that will help the business move forward.
• Celebrate the wins: Get the Manager’s to take the time to celebrate achievements with the team. This will give them a feeling of accomplishment and they’ll see how working together can really benefit the business.