How do you solve problems?

Everyone experiences different problems every day but have you thought how to solve them efficiently? Do you have a guide you use? I’m going to describe what steps I follow when I have to solve a problem related to my work. After that, I’ll show you an example that goes through the steps.

Steps

1. Understanding the problem

The first important thing is to make sure I know everything about the problem and understand it. This will be the main point of choosing the right solution for addressing the issue.

This might include reviewing the situation from the beginning, reproducing the problem and discussing it with other people.

2. What caused the problem

Finding the root of the problem allows me to see what are the possible solutions. This might be a time-consuming process, but without knowing what causes the problem, it is impossible for me to move on.

It is crucial for me to discuss the situation with all involved people and see their point of view. This is useful for avoiding confusion and conflicts.

3. Find all solutions

In most cases, I write down every solution that can be helpful. Sometimes a solution that first seems to be the wrong approach, it might be the correct decision at the end.

4. Choose the right solution

This is the step that can save a lot of time for all parties. I review all founded solutions carefully to see their pros and cons. Usually, when I compare the solutions each other, I try finding the most effective one.

What solution can be considered as effective? This, of course, depends on the problem. However, we have to be focused what will happen in future. Quick decisions might make the situation even worse. That said, getting rid of the problem quickly doesn’t mean we’re done with it.

I usually think about these things when choosing a solution:

  1. will there be new issues after that?
  2. will this be a temporary solution?
  3. will it help solving similar problems?
  4. will it risk relationships between partners?
  5. will it make me fill confident?

5. Monitor the situation

It is preferable to watch regularly what happens after choosing the right solution. This might be contacting a client or a person that was involved, reviewing whether everything is OK, or even do some tests.

The example scenario

Let us image we created a form that allows users to share some information. However, 2 days later the client contacted us and said the form doesn’t add any entries to a mailing system as the client had noted before we delivered the form.

If I followed the above listed steps, I would proceed as follows:

1. understanding the problem: based on the client note, it is clear that the form we created has to add all submitted entries to the mailing system. However, if we review the situation further, there are two issues here. The first one is that we didn’t implement the form correctly, the second one is that the client isn’t happy with our work;

2. what caused the problem: after understanding what happened, the first thing I would do is to review the communication with the client, see the instructions provided to the developer, and finally discuss the functionality of the form with the developer. Let us said the instructions weren’t prepared clearly in our case;

3. find all solutions: we can just fix the form and apologize/inform the client about the problem. In addition, we can explain to the client what exactly caused the problem. When I gather all options they help me to see what other I can add them in order to find the right approach;

4. choose the correct solution: in our example situation I would choose to take the following actions:

  • review the problem with the developer;
  • provide instructions to the developer to fix the form;
  • I personally test the form to make sure it works;
  • apologize for the problem;
  • inform the client the form works now;
  • describe what caused the issue;
  • review the internal process of providing instructions to the developers, change/improve it;
  • let the client that we discussed the problem internally and took further actions to avoid similar problems in future.

The idea here is to focus on the two main issues I described above. Hopefully, the client would be happy and there won’t be such situations in future.

5. monitor the situation: a few days later I would contact the client to see if everything is OK. Also, I would monitor the internal process and make sure the instructions were provided correctly to the developers.

Conclusion

The steps we should follow also depend on the complexity of the problem we face. For small issues, it is OK to choose the first reasonable solution that is based on our experience. However, in most cases going through predefined steps strictly is the best approach because they guarantee we will have much more success down the road.

What I can recommend you is not to be scared when you have to solve problems but use them, so they help you to improve your confidence. I always try to get benefits from problems, and I see them as opportunities. Most of the things I’ve learnt in my life come from experiencing and solving problems.