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Problem-Solving Success Tip – Use Your Time for Problems That are Truly Important

Use your time for problems that are truly important.

Hard as it may be to walk away once you’re aware of it, just because a problem is there doesn’t mean you have to solve it. Ask yourself and your colleagues, “What will happen if we don’t solve this problem?” If the answer is, “not much,” then turn your attention to something more important. If you don’t know what will happen, find out before you undertake a problem-solving project. It should be clear to you and everyone else involved that the problem is worth the effort-and expense-to fix it.

Quantify the cost of the problem quickly, but as realistically as you can. Include lost opportunity costs as well as real expenses such as staff time to deal with the problem, travel expenses, etc. Use actual costs where you can; estimate where you can’t. Then guesstimate what it will cost to analyze and fix it. Write your analysis down, stating all your assumptions explicitly. Get a colleague to verify that your assumptions and estimates are reasonable. Start with a rough “order of magnitude” estimate. That may be enough to answer the question of whether you should proceed. If it’s not clear, especially if the cost to solve it will be high, do a more careful analysis.

If it will cost more to fix than to live with the problem, or if the number is even close, perhaps your resources (time, people, money) are better spent on other projects. If you decide to proceed anyway, you can do so with a better understanding of what you’re undertaking. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate that the cost of the problem is much higher than the cost of solving it, using estimates based on reasonable assumptions, it will generally be much easier to get the resources you need. You can use your written analysis as a sales tool to help win support for your decision to proceed or not.

We have to learn to distinguish those things that are truly important from those that are merely urgent.
– Jerry D. Campbell

Copyright 2007. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source:
http://www.bestmanagementarticles.com
http://crisis-management.bestmanagementarticles.com


About the Author:

Jeanne Sawyer helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Now also an ebook, find out about it and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/.

Problem-Solving Success Tip: Define the Problem First

It seems obvious, but how many times have we gone to a problem-solving meeting and the discussion started with either whose fault was it or an assertion about the proper solution?

Instead, start by explaining what the problem is – what went wrong, what the symptoms are, what the impact on your business and your customer’s business is. These are the things that someone knows at this point in the problem solving process. If the someone is not you, and you’re leading the problem-solving effort, you need to do some research to find out. No guesses or assumptions allowed: the problem description must give the facts clearly and accurately.

Write it down. Writing the problem down forces you to describe it carefully, completely and unambiguously. The statement is a valuable tool to help focus your team on the real problem and avoid wasting time on extraneous issues. Everyone who reads it should understand what the problem is and why it’s important. No jumping ahead, either: you don’t know yet what caused the problem much less what you will do to fix it.

The written statement can also be used as a “sales tool” to explain what problem you’re solving and why it’s important. Use it to make sure you have the support you’ll need from management, your customer and any other key players. This is especially important if the significance of the problem is not universally understood or accepted.

The problem is defined when everybody who reads your problem statement, including you, understands what will be different when the problem is solved and your team agrees that it describes the correct problem.

Copyright 2007. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source:
http://www.bestmanagementarticles.com
http://crisis-management.bestmanagementarticles.com


About the Author:

Jeanne Sawyer helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Now also an ebook, find out about it and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/.

Five Problem-Solving Success Tips

The ability to solve complicated problems quickly is more important than ever in today’s competitive world.

From the time we’re little kids, we’re taught to solve problems by trial and error. That’s fine if the problem is as simple as a burned out light bulb. When the problem is a muddle of business, technical and political problems, we need something that helps us untangle the mess. Unless you’re Harry Potter, treating a mess like a burned out light bulb is as effective as wishing for magic.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to magic. Many key concepts in problem solving seem obvious but are often overlooked, causing delays and frustration in getting important problems solved. Here are some tips and reminders that will help you solve messy problems quickly and easily.

** Define the problem first.
Explain what the problem is – what went wrong, what are the symptoms, what is the impact on your business. Write it down. Everyone who reads it should understand what the problem is and why it’s important. Caution: describe the problem, not what you will do to fix it.

** Use your time for problems that are truly important.
Just because a problem is there doesn’t mean you have to solve it. If you ask, “what will happen if I don’t solve this problem?” and the answer is, “not much,” then turn your attention to something more important.

** Test your assumptions about everything.
Check the facts first. Be sure that you and your team understand the problem the same way, and that you have data to confirm that the problem is important. Test the assumptions about proposed solutions to improve the chances your solution will actually solve the problem.

** Measure.
The key question to answer is, “How will you know when the problem is solved?” If you don’t measure, you won’t know for sure. Use measurements to learn and portray the truth-the real truth, not what you wish were true.

** Measure the right things.
A common measurement trap is to measure something because it’s “interesting.” If knowing a measurement won’t change anything (e.g., help you make a decision, verify an assumption or prove the problem is solved), then don’t waste your time measuring it.

Copyright 2007. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source:
http://www.bestmanagementarticles.com
http://crisis-management.bestmanagementarticles.com


About the Author:

Jeanne Sawyer helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Now also an ebook, find out about it and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/.