Something you will face every day at work or at home is a “problem”.

One of the biggest skillsets to separate your top-tiered employees from others is the ability to solve problems in a mutually beneficial way to customers and the company.

As an 18-year old kid, when I first started in corporate event AV, I didn’t know much about the environment… and the types of situations I’d encounter. So early in my career, I asked many questions to learn through situational learning.

My process was simple. I walked around and asked all of my colleagues the same question to hear different perspectives on how they would solve the problem. Then I wrote it down.

My boss would always ask, “What’s in that book today?” and I was so excited to tell him what problems I was learning to solve. Through this process, I came to him one day to tell him I’d found a problem that no one had an answer for.

Once I explained the scenario, he said, “It sounds like we need to map out a process to solve this problem.”

At first, I was confused as to why we’d spend time-solving a problem that no one on our team had encountered before. That’s when I was introduced to the idea of problem-solving being a process.

What Is Problem Solving

In my education over the years, I’ve learned to define problem-solving as the act of defining a problem, determining the cause, then identifying, prioritizing, and selecting a solution to implement.

Solving problems with the wrong solutions have consequences.

That’s why this skill is so critical to companies today, and why those who master it rise to the top. Many times these master problem solvers are seen as superheroes.

However, while problem-solving does require an aspect of individual work, the function of problem-solving should be a standardized organizational process.

The Core Steps To Problem Solving

There are several best practices that analysts, consultants, and businesses use in their problem-solving processes. Over the years, these best practices continue to evolve with the most significant change being to focus on Design Thinking and introducing AI data in the process.

Even with this evolution, there are core elements every problem-solving process should have:

Step 1: Define the problem and the goals

Defining the problem will be the area you need to spend the most time on. You’ll want to make sure you, your team, and the customer have the same level of understanding of what exactly you’re solving and why you’re solving it.

Step 2: Identify the root cause of the problem

GI Joe said it best, “Knowing is half the battle.” Most importantly in this step, once you identify what is causing the problems, you must prioritize which root causes to deal with first. Considering factors like importance, value, and time will help prioritize which root cause to address first.

Step 3: Generate ideas of how to solve the problem

The diversity of ideas is essential in the ideation process. It’s critical that whoever is leading the problem-solving process is an active listener and does not immediately judge an idea. A best practice approach is to put all the ideas into two categories: Primary Solution and Alternative Solution.

Step 4: Review, analyze and select your best ideas

The temptation is to select an idea during the brainstorming session without having a Plan B in case your first choice isn’t the most effective to implement. In this step, you’ll want to analyze each idea as a potential solution, understanding the time and resources it would take to achieve the goal. After diving into this process, many ideas that may have started in one category (Primary or Alternative) will move to the other.

Step 5: Implementation and Monitoring

Now that an idea is selected, you must act. If new problems are introduced during this stage, go back to Step 4 to ensure this is the right plan before you work through those challenges. Once you have implemented a solution, you will need to continue to monitor and measure the effectiveness of the solution.

Making up your problem-solving process as you go will only add time and confusion. Timing is the most significant factor that will affect your problem-solving process. You and your team will need to thoroughly understand your time constraints to get a working solution in place.

Don’t wait for a problem to arise to have a solution. Take the proactive steps of getting your problem-solving process in place today to give your team the tools to achieve success.