Tag Archives: problem solving

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problem solving tactics

Problem Solving Tactics Are Part Of The System

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Is part of your job to solve problems? There is a good chance that it is, in fact, it may be the exact reason your business exists. Problem solving tactics are part of the process.

It is commonplace for people to wish for a life (or career) without problems. Yet, that may be exactly why you are there in the first place.

When you fix a problem, resolve an issue, often there is another new problem right around the corner.

New Problems

Have you missed a team members birthday recognition?

You have a cake and a party and now you have a cake and party for everyone’s birthday. It all works great until you miss one birthday, just one, only one. Now you have a new problem.

In a metro area, you walk, take a train, or use a bicycle. There are challenges with weather, schedules, and convenience. You buy a car and it improves many of those problems, but invites a whole new set of challenges.

Even something as modern and efficient as a smartphone. It works fantastic, it grows on you, you use it for everything, until you don’t have service, then there is a problem.

In life, problems seem to always occur. Perhaps, they are unavoidable. Solve a problem and a new one appears.

Are problem solving skills and tactics important?

Problem Solving Tactics

Wishing problems will go away is common.

If problems will always exist, then they must be part of the system.

Many people are good problem solvers. They may be the go-to person, or even the boss. In some cases, they are the person who has been around the longest, knows the ropes, and has a history.

Management team members are usually confronted with problems. Their assignment is often to utilizing the team in order to fix, repair, replace, or otherwise resolve a problem or issue.

Every day is a push back against problems. Minimize the problem or obstruction and you’ll have a product or a service that others desire.

How you make decisions impacts problem resolution. Learning from mistakes can be powerful. Learning by observation or formal study can also be powerful.

People with a lot of knowledge and skill probably have solved a lot of problems. They’ve also created a few.

Problem solving is a tactic for success. Procrastinating about tackling the tough issues is not.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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urgent problems

Urgent Problems Use The Most Energy

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Do you have some urgent problems in your workplace? Maybe you haven’t started your day yet, or maybe you’re starting your day earlier than the most and haven’t encountered any, yet?

Ask a group of managers if they ever feel like they spend most of their time fighting fires and you’ll likely have a lot of agreement in the room.

Metaphorical firefighting is a common workplace tactic. A tactic deployed day-in and day-out. The phrase, at the end of the day, has a tiring feeling associated with it for the firefighter.

There is also another type of manager. The manager who believes he or she shouldn’t really have any problems. Things should be quiet, work alone, work for yourself, think for yourself, and a lack of questions or challenges means that you’re doing a good job.

Perhaps.

Yet, most managers are in place to react to and solve problems in their immediate area of responsibility.

What type of problems seem to get the most attention?

Urgent Problems

A challenge or problem that isn’t urgent might never be fully addressed. The reason is simple. There is always something more urgent or more costly affecting the business or organization.

How do you know it is urgent? How would you prioritize it, or is it all about the squeaky wheel?

When you enter the meeting what is the small talk?

Hey, how’s it going?

What’s new?

What’s happening today?

Even meeting agenda’s often start with addressing problems. In fact, one of the biggest reasons a meeting is schedule is to tackle some problem, challenge, or to become more prepared.

It seems that most problems are labeled as urgent problems when they first emerge. After some assessment, action is taken, or tackling the problem gets delayed because of complexity or needing additional analysis.

Small fires (metaphorically) are more easily put out while larger ones may continue to rage.

It might be important to consider the use of your energy. Fighting a bunch of small ones may leave the bigger challenges festering and never being fully tackled or resolved.

You need a good strategy first. Then use tactics.

It doesn’t work so well the other way around.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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task force

Task Force Means Urgent, While Committee Lingers

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Have you been assigned to a task force? Are you leading one?

The task force is intended to be a short-term venture. Its primary goal is one of urgency with an expectation of being resolved, it is not a lasting ongoing group.

This group or team usually assembles quickly and then just as quickly dissipates. Having a spot in the group means your expertise is required. It is required right now.

The goal is to solve the special problem or need.

A committee on the other hand, may carry a lasting place in your community, a special interest group, or within any organization.

Sometimes there is a marketing committee. There may also be an event planning committee or a committee assigned to provide budgetary oversight. It might be an annual, seasonal, or cyclical activity, however, the essence of urgency usually only occurs when timelines or milestones start to slip away with limited or no action.

Which is it?

Task Force

Things that are urgent tend to change. The contents on a list of urgent items will shift. There may always be an urgent list but it won’t include the same contents.

When the manufacturer notices an emerging high failure rate on a product or system, they may create a task force to get to the root cause and provide a solution.

An unexpected virus, in software or in people, may require the urgency of a task force, not a committee.

It is important to recognize the difference.

A task force that doesn’t resolve the problem doesn’t usually become a committee.

The committee often lacks the urgency of the task force.

Call them by name, because without a label an urgent problem may last too long.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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workplace solutions

Workplace Solutions Are Better Than Problems

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What are you bringing to the meeting? Are you bringing workplace solutions or are you bringing more problems?

There are many purposes for meetings.

Some meetings are informational, some are for brainstorming, and there are some that are specifically for planning. Other types of meetings include meetings for making decisions, following up on previous decisions, or even team-building types of meetings.

Do you come to the meeting prepared to drag in some additional problems or do you come with the intent to suggest solutions? Many might quickly suggest that their intent is to do both.

There may be some risk, though.

Is everyone willing to show their hand?

Workplace Solutions

In a game of cards it is often expected that eventually you’ll show your hand. Timing seems to matter, and so does the idea that what others don’t know gives you more power.

Showing your hand in the workplace may mean you have to risk something. You might risk that your idea will be stolen, that the boss will take credit, or that future outcomes will favor a different team.

It may be the fear of success that halts forward motion. Giving others the power of your idea feels unsafe.

Do you still show it?

Many people are quick to bring forward a problem for discussion. Perhaps it is a good idea to put the same effort into providing possible solutions.

Showing your hand is more than just the right thing to do.

Solutions are more powerful than problems.

Bring some to share.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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second thoughts

Are Second Thoughts Just Part Of The Decision?

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You’re facing a big decision. You feel like you’ve decided. Suddenly you have some second thoughts. Is this a bad sign?

Some people suggest that there are always second thoughts about the marriage, if not by the couple, by the onlookers.

It is also true for the home buyer, the new car purchase, or while you wait after ordering from the menu.

People often view second thoughts as the beginning of a wrong decision. What if second thoughts are merely part of the process?

You can analyze many different angles about second thoughts. You can bring confidence into the equation and with that comes past experiences or even ignorance. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

Have you agonized enough? Thought it through, over and over again? Listed the pros and cons, yet still feel uncertainty?

Second Thoughts

Making the best choice often comes down to belief. Do you belief in the path in front of you? For employee teams, do they believe?

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is to develop a belief in the followers. It is not trying to develop a belief in the leader, it is about trying to develop a belief in the follower. Big difference.

Things will always change. A decision to leave your home without an umbrella can turn out the wrong way later within the same day.

When you make decisions in the present, or for the future, you’ve made the best decision you can make.

At that time, at the exact moment, it often is the right decision. Sometimes later, after things have changed, it is easy to suggest it was a poor decision.

Second thoughts shouldn’t always occur. They also shouldn’t always be dismissed.

Second thoughts are often a test that you’re still on the right path.

In life and in business every day is a fluid experience. Things ebb and flow.

Maybe it really means that you’re heading in the right direction.

Keep going.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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persistent commitment

Persistent Commitment Is Not About Time

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At least not directly. Persistent commitment emphasizes the value of the journey, and in most cases, it shouldn’t alter the destination. Assumptions that it takes a long-time shouldn’t weaken the focus. In fact, it may serve to strengthen it.

Destinations are often connected to hurdles, problems, and cannot happen within the moment. It is often why people fail to reach them.

The business or organization you work for has a journey and a destination. The same may be said about your career.

Destination Focused

In hospitality businesses, people sometimes refer to their operation as a destination location. The restaurant outside of town may have to be a destination location.

In these scenarios, it’s important to be persistent in providing the ambiance that draws people to you. Successful operations focus more than just food.

Whether you are problem-solving for your business or planning your career, staying persistent, and being committed matters.

Identifying that the journey may be long shouldn’t alter the commitment.

A career is considered to be comprised of many years. Yet, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be focused, committed, and taking action towards the destination every day.

Some good things take time. It’s true.

Persistent Commitment

Time shouldn’t be confused with weakening or lessening the commitment. It doesn’t mean you should just cruise, lose your focus, or wait on the perfect time.

Feeling that it’s taking too long to get to your destination may make you settle for something less. Not because you can’t get there. Perhaps because the feeling connected with the journey to reach your destination makes you less committed to the requirements of the goal.

It happens for people with diets, exercise routines, and managing personal finances. It may be the cause of business failures or connected with the frustration of navigating your career.

Bottom line, it shouldn’t.

It just shouldn’t happen.

Stay persistent and be committed.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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problem solving blame

Problem Solving Blame and the Root Cause

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Knowing the problem and the solution are two different things. Getting to the root cause is often another stumbling block. How are you managing problem solving blame?

This coffee tastes terrible. It must be the brand.

I tried their website. It must be down.

My house plant died. I guess I forgot to water it.

It’s easy to make assumptions. In many cases we label that problem solving.

Many people take great pride in their ability to solve problems in the workplace or in even in their everyday lives.

Problem solving skills are valuable and make a significant difference for quality, productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Problem Assumptions

Are the assumptions ever wrong?

Certainly, they are.

Getting the solution to the problem correct is critical. Getting to the root cause, well, that is also critical.

There are lots of reasons for bad coffee. Too long sitting on the burner, too strong, too weak, or perhaps something that was added. The brand may be perfectly fine.

A down website doesn’t mean it is a bad design, it also doesn’t mean that it is not working for everyone. Could be the connection, your browser, or even your own connectivity.

House plants sometimes die. A lack of water may not be the only reason. Throwing your arms up and suggesting that you aren’t good with plants may be an excuse.

When you problem solve, who or what gets blamed?

Problem Solving Blame

While we recognize that circumstances and situations will vary. We should also recognize that solutions and blame are not always connected or accurate.

If your cell phone didn’t charge overnight, is it the phone, the battery, the charger, the outlet, or was there a power outage? Was the cable appropriately plugged in?

Did someone else unplug it?

Getting to the root cause will matter. It may also take some time, some testing, and having a little more patience.

Before you make your next guess about who or what to blame, consider the importance of resolution. Stop blaming and solve it at the root.

Isn’t that what everyone wants?

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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meetings solve problems

Meetings Solve Problems, Or Don’t They?

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Should your meetings solve problems? It may depend on the type of meeting, but many meetings have some component designed around solving problems.

Some meetings are informational. Presenters deliver information. The information delivered is probably organized around solving a problem.

Some meetings are strategic. They attempt to organize the process of planning, creating vision, and improving an organizations competitive edge. No strategy, or poor strategy is a big problem.

Some meetings are task oriented. A committee leads, guides, and steers the direction of the group. Their challenge, or problem, is often ensuring the continuation of the cause or charter.

There are many other classifications or variations of meetings. Most meetings are intended to solve problems.

Reason for a Meeting

Each day decisions are being made by team members. Each day new problems arise. The rise of a new problem, and often it is quickly solved. A process so common many professionals take for granted the act of problem solving.

The problem that makes it to the meeting is different. There are many variations, considerations, or people affected so the calculation on solving it drags on.

Big problems are big problems because they aren’t easily solved. In some cases, attempts are made to solve them, only to see them repeat or continue.

Root cause analysis matters. It matters because addressing a problem with solutions that are not at the root means the problem will continue.

Is that a reason for the meeting?

Meetings Solve Problems

Do your meetings seem to focus around the same problem over and over again? Perhaps it is because of a lack of critical thinking, root cause analysis, or patterns of inappropriate interventions.

Usually the only problems that hit the meeting are the ones that are tough to solve. Everything else has already been taken care of.

Make your meetings count, it is why you’ve assembled in the first place. Meetings that count, have a plan.

The next time you attend bring a proposed solution for every problem you plan to present.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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repetitive workplace problems

Repetitive Workplace Problems and Solving Them

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Problems always exist. In part, that is why we have supervisors and managers. Are you suffering from repetitive workplace problems?

One aspect of leadership is that sometimes supervisors and managers think that they shouldn’t have any problems. The view is that more advanced roles are the luxurious ones. A place to get comfortable, relax, and enjoy.

In you don’t realize it by now, that is a myth in most organizations.

Repetitive problems probably exist because they are hard to solve.

Hard to Solve

Hard to solve doesn’t mean impossible to solve. It does probably mean that the solutions aren’t obvious, aren’t easy, or require additional risk.

Most problems are quickly addressed through experience or theory. People learn to spot resolutions based on previous similar scenarios. They apply their knowledge and expertise and the problem gets resolved.

We solve lots of problems every day. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are doing it. Yet, the lingering or repetitive problem nags at us.

Repetitive Workplace Problems

You attend the meeting, intending to solve a problem. The team gets sidetracked, the discussion becomes about obstacles, hurdles, and why things won’t work.

Maybe the problem definition is not clear. Maybe you can’t seem to get to the root cause, or perhaps you need more data or information before applying your expertise.

Don’t procrastinate about the problem. It is likely going to require some risk.

Get to the root cause.

If you don’t solve the problem at the root, it may repeat. When you don’t clearly understand the problem, it may continue.

When you get to the root and are willing to get a little uncomfortable and risky, you may discover a new path to problem resolution.

Otherwise, you may stay stuck.

-DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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problem fixers

Problem Fixers Are Proud Contributors, 10 Questions

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Are you in the group of problem fixers? Problem fixers are important but are they stuck in the mode of tactical assault or productive for the team?

Many workplace employees take great pride in being a problem solver. In fact, they may boast that they spend their day fighting the metaphorical fires.

Problem solving is a good and important skill but is it the answer for strategic momentum?

Unlikely.

Problem Fixers

I still remember the CEO of a group I was working with several years saying in a brainstorming session that, “We’re too big to fail. We have too much history and too much momentum to ever worry about that.” (Yes, he was serious and, yes, this did actually happen.)

Things changed for that organization on a dime about 18 months later. I’ll spare the details but it got really messy fast.

That same group took great pride in the concept that they were expert problem solvers and often spent their days tackling whatever problem popped up at the moment.

They were problem fixers.

Strategic Questions to Ask

Absolutely, problem solving skills are something that every person, especially leadership team members, need. However, when you don’t really have a strategy and you’re only executing tactically, you probably are headed for some problems you didn’t expect to find yourself trying to solve.

The questions you need to ask are the ones that are often hard to answer.

Teams should consider questions like:

  1. How long has this problem existed?
  2. Are we trying to fix the problem at the root?
  3. Are there similar problems popping up and we aren’t even aware?
  4. What is this problem costing us?
  5. Are these problems hurting our brand, image, and customers?
  6. What are we overlooking?
  7. Is this problem unique to our organization?
  8. What is this problem costing in productivity and efficiency loss?
  9. What is the specific challenge about this problem?
  10. Is the problem causing other problems?

Perhaps the best way to solve problems is to incorporate strategy so that the problem is eliminated and will not happen again. Drama filled problems or problems not solved at the root create an endless cycle of firefighting.

Be proud that you can solve problems but execute strategy every day. Firefighting is a tactical approach that should be used in emergencies.

If your day is filled with emergencies you probably aren’t being strategic.

-DEG

Small non-profits to large for-profits, do you want to think differently about strategy? Contact me to start a discussion.

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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