Proactive problem solving

PROBLEMS CROP up regularly as part of our working lives. For example, we might get sick, which makes it impossible to meet a deadline or, half way through a job, we might realise that the work involved is going to be much more complicated than we thought, which means that we’ll have to go back to our boss or client to ask for more resources.

However, problems don’t necessarily mean that there’s trouble ahead and solved efficiently can actually cement a working relationship rather than damage it.

To ensure that you deliver on your promises and your reputation remains in tact, consider the following steps:

Own the problem: people often shy away from problems because they feel scared, guilty or unsure of what to do. Many problems can be nipped in the bud with little effort if you are quick to react. However, ignoring the problem may mean that it esculates and becomes a real threat to the satisfactory delivery of your work and consquently taint the impression people have of you.

Voice your concerns: remember that other people in the work chain may be affected too and, if you fail to deliver, you could be putting them in an extremely difficult position. If this happens, they may lose trust in your ability and tell others about their bad experience too.

However, if they are aware that there is a problem in good time, they are much more likely to be able to avoid negative consquences at their end and may also be able to help you sort things out.

Prepare options: don’t just dump your problem onto someone else’s lap but try to come up with at least one workable solution before you draw attention to it. The person involved may have a better idea of how to deal with it but, at least, you will demonstrate your willingness and commitment to put things right.

Ask for help: if you’re stumped, do ask your colleagues and friends to help you brainstorm a solution. When you’re engrossed in something or perhaps you’re panicking, an objective view from others can be illuminating.

Even if you can’t come up with a solution, still make sure that whoever is involved knows what’s going on. They may get shirty – justifiably, if it’s your fault – but they’ll be much angrier if they find out for themselves when it’s too late to take corrective action.

Be upfront. The best way to avoid problems is to communicate and take a clear brief before the work begins. Make sure that you understand what the work entails by asking lots of questions beforehand – what, when, who, where and how?

Also, you need to be sure that the person you’re accountable to for the work knows what it will take for you to complete it to the required standards on time. If both parties have a clear understanding of what the process will entail including who’s meant to be doing what by when and what resources are available, problems are less likely to occur in the first place. However, you may have to take the lead in educating people to ensure that everyone is clear before the off. An effective way of doing this is to provide a written summary of what you’ve agreed in bullet points so people have time to reflect on what’s been said and amend where necessary.

More info

If you and your team would like to learn more about problem solving, we run a range of bespoke training courses and topics that can improve productivity and profitability.

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