Good problem solving and the ability to make rationale and effective decision are at the heart and soul of good career management. It is your latent ability to solve problems and make unbias decisions and to choose between one thing and another, rather than letting yourself to follow blind instinct that is the defining feature of how you feel of your human nature.
Whether you work in or with an organization, the quality of your work depends on your effective ability to solve problems and make decisions. Here, I would like to share with you some strategies that you can use to hone your skill of becoming an excellent problem solver. Note that problem solving is not about how intelligent you are or the body of knowledge that you have. Problem solving is about your ability to think straight and keeping the relevant data and facts in the right perspective and having done that to get the process right.
To be an effective problem solver the first thing that you should try to achieve is to sharpen your knack of identifying and classifying the type of problem that you are facing.
Problems can be classified into four types. They are: “Question-based problems”, “Situation-based problems”, “Convincing-based problems” and “Solving-based problems”. Each of these types of problem requires a unique approach to tackle and overcome. Let’s review each of them.
These type of problems involve a question that needs an answer. Sometimes it is difficult to derive the answer as you may not have access to all the relevant data and facts to make an informed decision. An example: Should the government help people who are retrenched?
Obviously this question begs further data such as how many people have been retrenched? Is it a problem that the government should handle? Why and how should they help them?
Question-based problems usually involve a long term plan of action and one which requires you to dig for more information and data to help you solve it. It also gives you an opportunity to delve deeper into the status quo that you are in and to see how you could improve your current state to the ideal state that you desire.
If you are faced with this type of problem you need to work towards getting as much facts and data as possible that will allow you to at least try to minimize the problem and make an informed decision.
These types of problems as the word suggest is based on a situation that is currently causing you a dilemma. For instance, your boss has asked you to work through the weekend to finish up a project for the company that is worth a million dollars. However, you’ve promised to take your family out for dinner to celebrate your spouse’s birthday. You now have a ‘situation’ here. Such problems can sometimes cause you to avoid the problem or to try to ignore it. The question that you need to ask is how are you going to deal with the dilemma?
This is when you need to keep thinking of how if at all you could satisfy these two contrasting situations. Or to make a decision as to what is more important to you. Having done this you need to convey your presence of mind to both parties. Situation based problems might expect you to make choice. In doing so, you need to weigh the consequences of your decision and as the saying goes to try to choose “the lesser of the two evil”.
Convincing based problems
These types of problem puts you in a situation where by you might have information that others don’t and a need to convince the others that they should see things your way. For instance, how do you convince your colleagues that they should not be coming late for their appointments and meetings always.
There may be a certain amount of sensitivity in such problems as the status quo that you are in is not an ideal state and might give rise to other problems if you do not handle it well enough. Convincing based problems requires you to be empathetic to the others’ feeling and to exercise a certain degree of emotional connectivity with others in order that the can be convinced.
Solving based problems
The last in the category is the solving based problems which basically means that you have a problem that needs solving. Example: The photocopier machine has broken down. You have a lot of photocopying to do. There is only one solution here and that is to solve the problem. The solution option you choose can be either short term, mid term or long term in effect. For the short term perspective, because you’ve got lots of photocopying to do, you might decide to outsource this. As a mid term remedy you may have to get the photocopier repaired. However this might not guarantee that it won’t break down again in which case you might have to think of a long term solution of replacing the whole machine.
Solving based problems usually will involve you being in a current non-desirous state of being and the need to move to an ideal state of being where the problem is resolved or if that is not possible at least in a state where the problem can be minimized.
Becoming a good problem solver will also put you in a good stead to be a rational decision maker. It all depends upon your calmness and having a cool headed approach to the problems that you face. So the next time you are faced with a problem make it a point to classify the problem in one of the above categories and then see what you can do about it.