The Nature of Effective Problem Solving

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Our youth program continues to grow at my church.  Of course, it is a simple formula as our church is one of the biggest in the area.  Church going parents make it mandatory for their children to attend church and participate in church services.  However, when the children graduate from high school and became young adults, their attendance becomes very low or non-existent. 

At that time, Velma Biddles was the youth leader and fairly new to the position.  She and her youth advisors have seen the shift of young people’s attitude.  If churches want to be effective with youth, they must change their underpinning message of: “Children are to be seen and not heard.”  Our youth advisors started to deal with the root causes of matters concerning our youth. Sadly, many businesses are spending millions on symptoms. What about you? 

Good problem solving can be an asset in an organization.  Some organizations find themselves solving the wrong problems and getting less than desired results.  Other managers assume that good technical staff members are naturally good problem solvers.  However, this observation is not necessarily true.  Effective problem solvers often have an intuitive skill set or enough training in problem solving for finding the right problems and making the best decisions.  

 John Gamble and Arthur Thompson, authors of Essentials of Strategic Management, outline the importance of filling key managerial slots with people who are good at figuring out what needs to be done and possess skills in effective implementation and in producing desired results.  They note, “No company can hope to perform the activities required for successful strategy execution without attracting and retaining talented managers and employees with suitable skills and intellectual capital.”  A problem can be defined as ‘an obstacle that stands in the way of achieving a desired goal.’ In fact, problems are divergences from the preferred outcomes.  

The basic problem solving stages include: (a) Identify the problem, (b) Gather information, (c) Clarify the problem, (d) Consider possible solutions, (e) Select the best option, and (f) Make a decision and monitor the solution. High performing organizations move beyond superficial problem solving in order to get to the root causes.  Good businesses realize that uncovering the real problems can be beneficial in many ways, such as reduced risks, cost savings, and greater efficiencies.  

Jeff Butterfield, author of Problem Solving and Decision Making, argues about the benefits of talented problem solvers: “People who can identify, define, and solve problems are valued members of an organization.” 

 

Like our youth advisors recognizing the problem and adapting appropriate solutions, today’s managers must be willing to move beyond their own bias to discover the real causes of problems.  Too many managers seek to major in the minors.  High performing organizations cannot afford to let this happen. 

In general, effective problem solving can be a great competitive advantage for organizations.  Formulating better decision making happens with more effective problem solving.  Businesses with talented problem solvers will have a greater capacity for sustainable success. 

Discuss your professional experience with problem solving in your industry or organization.

© 2014 by Daryl D. Green