Have you ever solved a Rubik's Cube? Chances are you have not. Most people find this to be a very complex, if not impossible, problem to tackle. However, there is a method to solving one in a short amount of time. You simply need to break down the problem. By breaking down the problem, you can make what might have seemed like an impossible task, well, easy. Watch our intern's ability to breakdown a complex problem and solve a Rubik's Cube under a minute and a half.
The Rubik's Cube is just one example of a complex challenge. In business organizations, complex problems are abundant, and the ability to work through them swiftly and correctly can have a substantial impact to the success of a business. The ability to solve a problem may rapidly become overwhelming if expectations are not managed and the problem is not understood. Recurring problems can be an indication that there is difficulty in identifying the underlying issues. By focusing on one small issue from the start, there will be an unintended consequence of allowing the larger, root issue, to remain. While reviewing the big picture may seem counterintuitive when the task becomes overwhelming, it is quite the opposite. Allowing yourself to take a step back to review the whole scenario will give you the opportunity to better follow the necessary steps.
Effective problem solving is skill that can be learned by following a standard process. The process can require time and patience as there are typically several solutions available and the root issue is not always obvious. Below are seven steps that will solve a problem successfully.
1. Understand the problem
The first step to identifying a problem is becoming aware. Recognize that there is a problem that requires immediate attention. Invest the time to thoroughly understand the problem. Identify all areas that are being impacted including users, software and/or the process. Failure in understanding the problem will result in mismanaged expectations.
2. Breakdown the problem
It is also important to recognize the underlying issues that are causing the problem as well as how you became aware of the problem. As previously noted, the root issue is not always the most obvious. Process reviews, user interviews and software assessments will help determine underlying issues that play a part in the problem.
3. Provide solutions
At this stage, list any and all solutions that have the possibility of solving the problem. Not every solution will flourish, but those will be filtered out later in the process. If all options are not considered, including unconventional ideas, it is possible to miss a solution all together. After cultivating a list of solutions, review the list and rank the solutions.
4. Decide on the best course of action
Based on the highest-ranking options, evaluate if any of the solutions can cause new, unexpected problems. Each course of action should be judged using the same parameters so that they can be equally compared. This step requires thinking outwardly and long term. Substantial problems can be broken down into smaller options; therefore, it is possible there may be multiple courses of action that can be taken. It is also important to ensure that all resources who are affected by the action are in support of the changes.
5. Create a plan
Once the best course of action is determined, there may be several steps to get to achieve the business objectives. Create a project plan. A project plan will facilitate communication with your stakeholders, identify and mitigate risks, and capture milestones. Most importantly, it will assist in managing expectations.
6. Execute the plan
Once both the problem and solution have been identified, it is important to execute the plan swiftly and appropriately. Allowing problems to linger in any organization can exacerbate the issues further, which may lead to an adverse financial impact. If more than one individual is part of the project plan, ensuring that everyone understands each part of the process is key. Communication is a large part of this step. Distributing weekly status reports will track the progress of project, highlight issues and accomplishments.
7. Evaluate the results
Depending on the problem and solution, there may be an immediate resolution or progress may need to be evaluated. Provide metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) demonstrating financial impact, employee performance, and overall organizational health.
Most individuals engage in some type of problem solving on a day to day basis, whether in their personal life, in their organization or in this case, with a Rubik's Cube. Whatever the challenges may be, the ability to effectively solve problems as they arise can have a substantial positive outcome. By using the steps listed above, your problem-solving skills will continue to sharpen and be more effective. Start by testing your skills with the Rubik's Cube. If you are able to solve it by applying this process, let us know!
Veritas Total Solutions is a management consulting firm. We specialize in various strategy & transformation solutions that enable companies and professionals to transform their businesses. If you are interested in learning more about our specific capabilities, contact us or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.