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The Not-So-Obvious, Problem Solving Strategy – Get Started!

It may sound silly, but any organization can become paralyzed by their problems.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Many issues can – and should – be qualified and quantified quickly.  You may be surprised when some can even be solved in no time.  Use these five tips to get immediate traction on your most pressing issues. 

1) Commit to less talk and more action.  Resist the urge to discuss, argue, and debate ad nauseam.  It’s easy to commiserate or beat a problem to death.  The subject comes up in other meetings.  It may be an emotional or politically sensitive issue.  Maybe you’ve tried solving it before and weren’t successful.  But more talk is usually not productive.  The only way to break through is to organize your thoughts around the issue.

2) Qualify and quantify the problem.  Write a charter.  Define the scope.  When analyzing a process, note the specific start and stop points within the process to clarify your focus.  Consider human and other resources required to support your charter.  Estimate the cost in time and money to solve the problem, as well as the potential return-on-investment (ROI).

3) Create and maintain a list of all significant organizational initiatives.  Include this as part of your ongoing strategic planning efforts.  Understanding all resource requirements, dependencies, risks, and paybacks of your various efforts is key to getting efficient results.

4) Prioritize all efforts.  No organization can do everything at once.  No department or key person can be spread too thin.  Consider a feasibility-impact matrix to help you prioritize your list above.  Score each effort (1-5) in your list for:

Feasibility – how easy is this to solve?  (5 = easy; 1 = difficult)

Urgency – how quickly can this problem be addressed and solved?  (5 = quickly; 1 = slowly)

Impact – what’s the payback in productivity, customer satisfaction, and/or dollars?  (5 = high relative payback for your organization; 1 = low payback)

Add the scores for each problem and then rank your list by the sum.  You want the biggest bang for your buck, as quickly as possible, right?  After ranking, take it a step further.  Often, some problems are related and should be tackled together to improve synergy.  Some may carry additional risks or costs that weren’t anticipated before.  This step helps sort all this out quickly, while minimizing the risk of stalling or burn out later.

5) Make time to do this right.  So many people have told me they “don’t have time for extra meetings.”  They resist creating a charter, assessing resources and risk, and the prioritization process.  I’ve never seen these “extra” meetings slow anyone down.  On the contrary, this structure gains traction, buy-in and results.  A few hours up front are better than letting problems fester for months or even years.

I highly recommend following a structured problem solving process, conducting effective meetings, and using proper decision making techniques.  While this may require some additional training to perform well, it shouldn’t stop you from moving forward.  Take these first steps.  Cut your nagging problems down to size and solve them once and for all.

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Edward Livesay

Edward Livesay

Co-Founder & Strategist at Mosaic Strategic partners
Edward Livesay is a business and financial strategist with over 16 years of consultative experience. His work has generated millions of dollars in growth and savings for business and government clients.
Edward Livesay

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