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Solving Problems Quickly: There’s a Right Way

No one knows an executive who doesn’t have a packed schedule.  Executives are constantly under time pressure, and so it’s their ability to make good decisions quickly that makes them successful in their job.  

Making quick decisions can be a double-edged sword however.  There are risks and pitfalls to solving problems this way, but as any successful executive will tell you, there’s a solution for that.

What Can Go Wrong

A number of factors can prevent quick decisions from being sound.  Subconscious biases and heuristics can guide thinking in the wrong direction when under time constraints.  When trying to solve a complex problem, insufficient information can become a stumbling block, and insufficient analysis can come into play when there is enough information available, but it’s not properly analyzed or applied.

Erroneous decisions are rarely caused by just one of these factors.  It’s usually some combination of them that leads to errors in solving problems quickly.

Taking the Right Approach

What is the solution, then, for avoiding the dangers of making quick decisions?  There are a number of problem-solving frameworks used the business world and while they may differ to some extent, they all have several core elements in common:

  1. Define the issue.  This is often the most difficult part of the problem-solving process, as there may not be recognition a problem exists, let alone a clear definition of what it is.  Defining the problem should include an understanding of the desired objectives of any solution.
  2. Measure.  This step assesses the available information.  Here, more is not always better.  The information at hand needs to be relevant to the problem, and it needs to contain a sufficient level of detail to allow for proper analysis.   
  3. Analyze to identify root causes. This step analyzes the available (and correct) information to get at the root causes of the problem.  While discussing analysis tools out of scope of this article, it’s worth mentioning that whatever analytics are used, they should be the appropriate ones to the problem at hand.  
  4. Generate and evaluate solutions.  By this point, there should be a clear understanding of the problem and its underlying causes.  Any solutions now being considered need to address these causes, be measurable, and have some cost-benefit analysis to help make an informed choice between alternatives.
  5. Implement.  If the previous steps were carefully followed, there should be a clear plan of action now in place, including responsibilities, targets and deadlines.  This is the point where the plan should be implemented.
  6. Control.  This is the sustainability part of the problem-solving process, where post-implementation KPIs are tracked against targets, and variances are addressed.

The common characteristic of every framework, however, is that it does not fit every situation.  

This is one of the areas where Trindent Consulting can bring value to your organizationOur proven approach to identifying underlying issues and defining solutions are at the core of our passion for solving complex problems.