Problem or Opportunity

We all have problems of one sort or another.
Why do some people appear to glide right past them and others get stuck, sidetracked, and/or totally overwhelmed by problems? You’ve probably also experienced people who may be quite effective at solving work- related problems and yet struggle mightily with personal issues. It might be the way they are looking at a problem or it could be they never perfected their own personal problem solving process.

You can compare learning a problem solving process to learning how to play a sport such as baseball. There are key starter skills you need to learn such as batting, catching, throwing, running bases, etc. All of these skills deserve ample practice time before you begin to play the actual game.

The key to successfully solving your particular problems resides in creating a fail-safe process on which you can rely no matter how large, small, complicated or far-reaching said problem might be.

Step 1: Define the Problem:

Take the time to decide specifically what is and what is not part of the problem. There is a difference between the symptoms of a problem and the problem itself. Take time to determine which is which. Also decide if you are dealing with only one problem. This is not the time to group them.

Step 2: State the Problem:

After you identify exactly the extent of the problem, note it. Clarity comes when you can accurately communicate a problem, whether it is to just yourself or to others. Don’t overstate it. Make your problem statement succinct and factual. Leave the emotion out. Many people waste more time describing a problem than actually working on resolving it.

Step 3: Prioritize:

Ask yourself the following questions to help you prioritize the problem:

How urgent is the problem?

How much time do I have to find a solution?

How serious is the problem?

What if I do nothing, will the problem get worse or burn itself out?

Answering these questions will help you determine how it fits or doesn’t fit into what you already have on your plate.

Step 4: Set Deadlines:

If you don’t have time to solve your most pressing problems, your most pressing problem is actually time management. Avoid setting loose time frames such as: “this week, next week, or this month.” Those loose deadlines are time magnets for procrastinators. Now is the time to be as specific as possible.

Step 5: Question the Problem and Gather Information:

Asking who, what, where, why, and how questions will serve you well at this stage. Do not attempt to discredit the problem. Work to question it without judgment. Ask precise questions to determine if there are any unexamined details that must be considered. Capture the data from the questions you ask.

Step 6: Develop Alternatives:

Based upon the data you gather, determine if there are any alternative solutions to the problem. Even list solutions that seem unlikely, costly, or just downright difficult. From that list you can brainstorm true, potential solutions.

Step 7: Take Action on the Best Available Alternative:

It’s now time to take action. Be sure to measure your results as you implement the best option you uncovered through this problem solving process. Document your progress as many of the techniques you master here can translate into helping you solve other problems.


Allowing yourself time to practice these 7 basic skills will have you swinging for the fences in no time!



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