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Problem Solving in the Workplace: How to Strengthen That Muscle

January 4, 2023

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A small team of three looks up at a cork board with lots of paper and post its on it. Together, they're problem solving a solution.
Knowing how to approach problem solving can really help your outcomes.

No matter where you work or what position you hold, problems are bound to crop up. Problem solving is an important part of functioning in the workplace for every employee. This is true whether you are solving a client’s problems or your own. Basic problem-solving skills are an essential tool in the workplace that everyone should understand. 

The process of understanding a challenge and working toward a solution can test your critical thinking skills. It helps to have a plan of action to help smooth the problem-solving process before your encounter issues. Here are a few basic tools you can use to help you strengthen your problem-solving skills. 

What Makes a Good Problem Solver?

So, what qualities make for a good problem solver? While fixing problems isn’t always straightforward, there are processes to help you work through potential issues. 

Start with Defining the Problem

Take a closer look and learn more about the situation. You can’t take an issue at face value, and should look for a deeper issue or root cause. The root of the issue may be a number of different problems. It also might be one issue exacerbated by people’s reactions to it. 

After learning as much as you can, be sure to separate facts from opinions. Facts are irrefutable truth and opinions are subjective. Using your company’s policies and procedures, discuss with the involved members and gather more information. Get the problem defined in specific terms. At this point, you are not trying to find a solution, you’re simply defining the problem. Make sure you understand it entirely before moving forward.

Lay out Multiple Solutions

Bring everyone affected by the problem together for a brainstorming session. Ask them for their suggestions and discuss potential solutions. If you know people who have more experience with this particular challenge, you can bring them in for a consult as well. 

Make sure that each team member is involved in generating a solution. Divide relevant suggestions between short and long-term solutions. Short-term solutions will help smooth the way until you and your team can devise a better long-term fix to the problem. 

Evaluate Solutions

Evaluate the list of possible solutions for each problem and go over the pros and cons of each one. Have your team analyze and compare all the different alternatives. You won’t have the resources for every proposed solution. Discuss the time, budget, and other resources required for the implementation of each solution.  

You should also consider which personnel will be needed to carry out the solution. Do they have the skills necessary to complete the proposed solutions?

Select the Most Fitting Solution

After evaluation, the team should come to a solution. If it’s not evident by now, keep evaluating until a sound solution has been decided upon. Choose the solution that solves the issue and has your team’s agreement. The more practical and easier it is to implement, the better. 

Develop a Plan of Action

In order to make sure everyone is on the same page, it is important to have a plan of action. Define the objectives and separate them into measurable targets and timelines. Communicate it to everyone involved with the project. Make sure you have a way for people to communicate feedback during the process. This way, you can monitor progress and make adjustments accordingly. 

What Qualities Make Good Problem Solving Skills?

There are several skills that good problem solvers have. These are skills you can practice and develop in yourself to help strengthen your ability to problem-solve. 

Practice these problem solving skills in the workplace:

Creativity

Fixing issues isn’t all about logic. There needs to be a balance between logic and creativity. Bring a unique perspective to the table and develop innovative solutions when by thinking outside the box.

Listening

An active listener gathers more information from the involved parties. This helps define the root cause of a problem much sooner and makes everyone feel heard. 

Analytical Thinking

The ability to research and understand a problem and its causes is an essential part of finding an effective solution. 

Communication

Effective communication helps everyone understand what is going on at any given time. 

Decision Making

Problem-solving requires a lot of decisions. If you are indecisive or insecure in your choices, it will hinder your progress.

Teamwork

Effective solutions require everyone’s involvement. It is essential to morale and cooperation to be able to work well with others. 

Learn More About Skills for Solving Problems with ASAP

The American Society of Administrative Professionals is offering an on-demand webinar on Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Tools for Success. You will learn more about different types of problem-solving mindsets and when to use them effectively at work. The seminar will also cover what questions to ask to get the best results in every situation. Become a member today to get a discount on the webinar fee. 





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