How to Solve Tough Problems

Jul 29, 2016 | Human Resources

You and your team might be able to identify tough problems in your business, but do you know the steps to solve them? Or why it’s important to solve them as a team? Not only will partnering with your team help identify areas of opportunity, but it allows us to lean into solutions instead of complaining about problems. Discover the five steps to solving tough problems in your practice and learn about available tools that will cultivate a culture of feedback and problem solving.

To remain competitive in the market today, problem solving must become a part of what we do as a business. It is critical to the success of your business to identify and solve problems before they negatively impact the quality of service you provide to your patient. Even more important is the need to solve the problem as a team. Not only will you be sharing the work, but you will be able to come up with more creative solutions and understand all perspectives if you hear what everyone has to say. You’ll also have the support of your staff when they understand the current situation and how you came to the solution that you plan to implement.

Here are the five steps to take when solving tough problems with your team.

1. Recognize the Problem

  • Jointly agree a problem exists.
  • Describe the problem situation.
  • Write a clear problem statement.

The toughest part of problem solving is deciding which problem to work on. Sometimes the easiest is the most obvious or crisis problem, or even the problems with the easiest solutions. However, putting out fires takes away from opportunities to prevent fires in the first place. Recognizing the problem within the team will solve them quicker and will have less of a negative impact on your business

2. Determine the Root Cause

  • Localize where and when the problems occur.
  • Gather and study all relevant information.
  • Reach conclusions to jointly agree on root causes.

Once you know that there is a problem, it’s important to invest the time to discover the root cause and shed as much light as possible on it. All team members should agree and be able to gather and analyze all of the facts. This is important as you want to concentrate on the causes of the problem without focusing blame or attacking each other. Differentiate the cause from the effect, and think about the what, where, why, how, when, and how often the problem is occurring. Finally, keep all affected people involved and informed as you move through this process.

3. Explore Possible Solutions

  • Discuss and analyze the root causes.
  • Generate ideas by brainstorming.
  • Organize ideas into alternative solutions.

This is the most rewarding and creative part of this process. When you’re brainstorming, list all the ideas without judgment. Good ideas come from everywhere. Encourage your team to use analogies and examples and to feel free to say what is on their minds. When everyone’s thoughts have been written down, you can categorize and evaluate them, possibly drawing arrows to coordinate ideas together and eliminating ideas that are impractical. One idea is to use “idea slips.” This is a method where everyone writes one solution per sticky note or index card, and then they are arranged to see which coordinate with each other.

4. Select a Practical Solution

  • Define success criteria.
  • Evaluate options.
  • Agree on a solution.

All of the groundwork is done, so you will have everything you need in front of you. Consider if the solution deals with the root cause, and if it works for your practice and with your team. Is it practical to implement or will it not work with your current process? Lastly, agreeing on a solution as a team will encourage buy-in. People are more committed to solutions that they participate in and will support decisions that they understand.

5. Implement the Solution

  • Invest time.
  • Plan action steps.
  • Take action.
  • Evaluate, adjust, and improve.

Invest time in a plan for successful implementation. The plan should be owned by everyone, so make this part of the team activity to decide what needs to get done, who will do it, and when it should be done. Create measurable actions as they’re being accomplished, and allow for adjustments for the future. The solution might not work perfectly the first time it’s being used. Allow time to come back and share lessons the team has learned to perfect the plan.

When evaluating and solving tough problems, here are some tools to help you work with your team:

  • Cause and Effect
    Define what the problem is as a team, and work back to find likely causes of this problem. Brainstorm to collect all opinions of your staff, then reach an agreement on the most practical causes.
  • Pareto Analysis
    Identify all of your problems and their causes. Next, group the problems together based on their root causes. Developing a solution that solves the problems with the most shared causes will have the most impact on your business.
  • Force Field Analysis
    Work with this tool by agreeing as a group what the desired outcome is. Agree on what everyone wants, then list the forces for and against a proposed change. This will help you look at the big picture and weigh the pros and cons. Determine which are the strongest and  eliminate those hindering forces.
  • Start, Stop, Continue, Change
    You can do this as an individual or as a group, and it is often used as a way to improve service when you don’t have time to tackle all of the problems in your practice. First, categorize what behaviors or actions you would like to stop, start, continue, and change. Then, evaluate how best to use your time to make the greatest impact.
  • Decision Matrix Analysis
    This tool can be used to help assign solutions across your team. Create a chart with the criteria on one side and names of people on the top to identify who can do what. This helps everyone to share the workload and work together as a team.

When executed correctly, you can expect to have the confidence to tackle problems with your team and encourage open communication about solutions. This allows us to lean into solutions instead of avoiding talking about problems. The teams here at Audigy are trained to work with each of our Members closely to help them identify and solve their tough problems.
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