Problem-solving skills are an important part of our lives. Be it a mundane daily activity or at work, most of the time our work is centred around problems and how to solve them. In a managerial set up, most of the work is problem-centric. Be it solving a problem for a client, supporting someone who is solving a problem or searching for new problems to be solved, problems define our activities. Problem-solving skills are, thus, important in the workplace.
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Skills for Problem Solving
Different problems require different set of skills to be solved. For example, solving a problem for a client requires not just knowledge but also good verbal, listening and persuasion skills. Solving a problem within the organization with other employees require teamwork, coordination and effective communication among them. Hence, to improve problem-solving skills there needs to be effective communication and understanding of the situation.
Efficient Methods of Problem Solving
Problem-solving skills can be improved in many ways. There are four basic steps to efficient problem solving in any situation. They are:
- Defining and understanding the problem
- Searching for alternatives
- Evaluating and selecting alternatives
- Executing the solution
Defining and understanding the problem is the first step to problem-solving. It is important to look deeper into the problem beyond what might seem like the obvious.
For example: The substandard performance of the employees might be seen as a result of laziness or an unwillingness to work and improve oneself. However, the real reason could be that the employees are untrained and unskilled at their jobs. Understanding the roots of the problem makes way for efficient search for solutions.
Now that the core of the problem has been identified, we need to search for alternative solutions to fix the problem. The aim is to find the most efficient and rational solution that is agreeable to all the parties involved.
Thus, if there is a difference in opinion regarding the implementation of a certain standard or protocol, the manager can either take a survey to understand the opinions of the employees or call a meeting to discuss and, if necessary, bring changes to the proposal.
Once all the alternatives are considered, we need to evaluate each and every single alternative so that we can come to a conclusion by selecting the most rational solution. Selecting the solution also requires the opinion of the employees and staff, what they consider to be the best option and how the executives in higher positions would react to it.
For example: Choosing between cheaper alternatives or low production due to a reduced budget depends on the situation of the firm. The cheaper alternatives for production will ensure the same number of units are produced, albeit low quality and hence, lower prices. Reduction in production, however, will ensure that the quality is good and the price of the product will be maintained or even raised.
Executing the solution requires the leadership of the manager and good and efficient coordination and communication with all the employees and entities. The problem will be directly handled at this stage and efforts will be made to change it.
For example: If the decision to use cheaper alternatives for production is made, then changes are made in the manner of production, networks are set up to get access to the cheaper alternative, bargaining and networking is made etc.
Thus, improving problem-solving skills require a basic knowledge of the situation as well as having the creativity and resources to solve it.