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Three Tips for Problem Solving in the Workplace

Posted on June 13, 2011 by Suzanne

I was never a fan of problem solving in school. I would always question when I was going to actually use it in real life. Well, I may not be solving math problems all day, but I do have to do a lot of problem solving in business that can be tied back to what I learned in school. So, here are the three basic steps that I walk through when a problem arises in the workplace.

Step Back and Gather All the Information 

I often find that many problems happen because the person that has the problem is overwhelmed / stressed, and unable to see the big picture. What I find helpful is to take a deep breath and start from the beginning by answering three simple questions. What am I trying to accomplish? How did it get to this point? and How can I resolve the situation and still achieve my goal? In asking these questions it helps me step back and see what I may have missed before. Gathering this information can be vital to a successful resolution to the problem.

Make the Call

What I have learned during my time at Gordian Project is that every vendor, customer or team member has a different personality. Some need to be white gloved and others just chug along without much stress. It is important for me to understand that when there is a problem, sometimes the best thing I can do is get on the phone and talk to the person directly. What I usually find out is that there is information that was not given to me in the first place, or one or both of us misunderstood the other.  The computer revolution has given us many amazing pieces of technology; however, we still do not have a device to help interpret the tone an email is sent in. Calling that person allows you to directly diffuse any tension and remind both parties that you’re only human.

Follow Up

Following up after a problem is solved is a great way to build confidence with your customer’s, vendors or team members. It lets them know that you took their issue seriously and that you are going to be available to them if another one comes up. I personally find the follow up to be one of the least used aspects of problem solving. Following up is essential to making sure all parties involved were happy with the outcome, while at the same time building up trust in the relationship between those involved. Make sure you always follow up.

Of course in problem solving every situation is different, so all problems may not fall into these tips. However, these basic steps always help me to get straight to the critical thinking and leave the stress and frustration behind, allowing me to better answer and address problems when they start.

What about you? How do you tackle problems when they arise? Any tips we left out? Make sure to leave them in the comments.



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