Anyone in business knows that issues and challenges will crop up from time to time. No business is perfect and challenges emerge either in either the marketplace (i.e. competition) or within the business itself. Equipping yourself with an effective business problem solving toolbox helps ensure that you have a structured method in analyzing and solving the issue before it adversely impacts your bottom line.

The first step is identifying that there is a problem – perhaps this could be a repeatable event that impacts performance or profitability – whatever the problem –a fundamental part of problem solving is route causes analysis and gathering data that facilitates decision making.

Business Problem Solving steps

While problem solving for many might appear a bit obvious – by having an effective method for business problem solving (and by this we mean structured) you can save time and money. There are no special magic bullets and business problem solving is very much like problem solving in the real world. So what structure should you adopt? Well to start with one of the better known “models” is the the seven step problem solving program. Take a look below:

1. Define and Identify the Problem
2. Analyze the Problem
3. Identifying Possible Solutions
4. Selecting the Best Solutions
5. Evaluating Solutions
6. Develop an Action Plan
7. Implement the solution

For those familiar with six sigma this is not too dissimilar to the DMAIC model and fundamentally revolves around 3 key concepts

1/ Know your problem
2/ Analyze issues and model solutions
3/ Implement the solutions.

Let’s refer back to DMAIC for a moment – anyone that follows six sigma knows that one of the primary rules of DMAIC is that you don’t skip steps and to that extent any business problem solving requires one important tool – discipline. The organization needs to be committed to reviewing and resolving the problem – and with any good business, this should be regardless of the result.
Bear in mind that often problem solving results in issues being exposed and often embarrassment by the operator who maybe at fault – that’s the very nature of problems – something is being done incorrectly – it’s important to set these issues aside and focus on resolving the issue.
Given the basic problem solving steps identified above – for organizations that require a quick fix the they are faced with two options – firstly to skip steps or take shortcuts in the problem solving steps (go straight to the fix for example and skip the data gathering) this is dangerous as we’ve already stated – a failure to understand the issue could result in the wrong improvements being deployed (and wasting money!) – the second option is to increase the number of resources being deployed to fix the team – successful improvement programs often have cross matrix (multi disciplined) teams focused on removing the business problem.

So business problems happen all the time – that’s what life is about – it’s about how you deal with them that counts and having a proven system to deal with them is imperative.

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