Are you currently in the middle of a storm at work?
Don’t be discouraged. This doesn’t mean you have failed.
In fact, according to Bruce Tuckman, the creator of the performance cycle, “storming” phases occur in all organizations. These seasons are vital to growth and development.
We should view the difficult times in business as opportunities for growth and development.
All companies deal with a variety of problems, whether it be an internal personnel or systems problem or an external vendor or client problem.
While this does not indicate that your business is unsuccessful, failure to address the problems appropriately and with urgency may lead to further complications and eventual failure.
So how do we best address the issues?
Problem solving should be approached as a process. By doing so, the issues can be dealt with quickly and effectively, getting you back to business.
Below we’ve listed our 9-step method for tackling the problems your business may be facing:
Do Not Ignore the Situation.
Your first impulse and desire may be to ignore the difficult problems, especially the ones we don’t understand fully, hoping that they solve themselves. However, this strategy, if we can call it that, usually only makes matters worse. The results can often have severe effects.
For example, a seemingly small interpersonal conflict in a company’s sales division can lead to absenteeism, low productivity, or even high turnover. Suddenly, you may notice a decrease in profit as business is lost.
Eventually, there is a moment when must face the problem head on. This might mean making some hard decisions or investing in education. However, the culture of the business is defined through these storms. These hard seasons are the perfect opportunity to grow employees and streamline and fine tune your business.
Don’t Make Excuses, Take Responsibility.
Circumstances that challenge a company are a great excuse to be either successful or unsuccessful.
Many people tend to blame outside influences for lack of sales, money and professional and personal success. However, when you read the stories of the most successful companies, the companies who have made it through the good and bad, they don’t bemoan the difficult seasons. In fact, they often cite them as their launch pad..
If you’re in the middle of a storming phase, are you playing the blame game?
Great leaders don’t blame the economy for their failures. Instead, they use trials to motivate their team and maximize their results. Despite the circumstances, the role of a leader is to motivate, empower, and challenge the people they with whom they interact. When a company faces tough times and changes, the success of the outcome is determined by the commitment and the accountability of all the parties involved, starting in the executive suite.
Assess the Situation
Become fully aware of the problem. Start by asking the 5 W’s:
- Who? Who brought the problem to your attention? Which individuals are being affected?
- What? What is the problem? Do you understand the full reach and consequences?
- Where? Where is the problem focused? What is the full spread?
- When? When did the problem begin? Is there a date by which the problem needs to be solved? Will the problem impact your timelines?
- Why? What is causing the problem to occur? What are the consequences if the problem isn’t solved?
Ask these questions of the people affected by the problem. Depending on the size of your company, you may not be fully aware or fully understand the problem. Because of this, you may need to go out of your way to get the full scope. Without this knowledge, it will be impossible to play an active role in forming an effective solution.
You may want to also ask a few people outside the immediate problem area. This will allow you to assess the spread and set the priority.
Develop Multiple Solutions
When it comes to problem solving, forming a few different plans of action is prudent. Problem solving is a process. First impressions of a situation are not always correct.
Only with time and information will the full problem present itself. As a result, an effective solution will present itself only with that time and information.
But that’s not all…
When developing your plan of action, it can be very prudent to include one or more of the affected individuals. This is because no one knows the depth and scope of the issues better than those whom are affected. A manager or owner may not have the expertise on the subject that they have.
Your job is not to be the expert in that area. Instead, your job is to formulate a process with information you gather and manage the execution.
Investigate Possible Outcomes
After you craft a few solutions, think through the possible outcomes of each. Consult with affected individuals. Go through multiple scenarios. Again, you do not need to be the expert; you only need to provide the structural scaffolding for building the solution.
Choose the Best Solution
This is self-explanatory. Once all the solutions have been assessed and investigated, the solution that most effectively solves the problem can be chosen.
Without a plan of action, all this time and planning will be wasted. This is because the theory of the solution must be turned into a plan that can be practically implemented.
Use question words as a guide:
- Who? Who needs to make a change?
- What? What do they need to do? Is there a process they need to follow? What actions do they need to take?
- Where? Where will this change take place? Is it a change in one individual or does it require a company-wide policy
- When? When will this action begin? What is the timeline? Are there deadlines by which the changes need to be made
- How? How will we measure the progress? Will it be a quantitative (numbers) result that needs to be recorded or will it be qualitative (quality) result? If it is qualitative, how will the result be quantified? (Surveys, interviews, etc)
The best offense is a good defense.
Actively staying involved in the problem solving process will keep you aware of how the process is going. In addition, any other problems that come up can be detected and addressed. Does the problem in this department indicate that there may be other departments suffering from the same issue? Are there related problems that may come up? Did your solution create an unavoidable problem that you now need to address? A proactive approach can be a money and time saving attitude to adopt. However, this level of proactive prevention requires active engagement in the company.
Treat the Situation with Urgency
You’ve discovered the problem, developed a solution, and made a plan. However, nothing is happening. People are dragging their feet. Other projects are taking priority.
In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks. The urgent tasks usually take the spotlight. As a result, we often find ourselves putting out lots of last minute fires. Because of this, problem solving and prevention can be pushed aside.
Find and fix the problem with desperate urgency. Remember the consequences of failing to do so. Creating real change in the work place starts with an intentional attitude.