How to identify and tackle business challenges head on
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”— Albert Einstein
Success is often defined as “the ability to solve problems” – those inevitable business challenges that will come your way at some point, presenting moments that will test your strength as a leader.
But, just how comfortable are you tackling issues and challenges head on? Like anything, successfully managing tough situations is often down to following a process and demonstrating a number of key behaviours.
At the outset it is important to remember that every business has problems. The challenges your business faces are not necessarily a reflection on you, but how you manage and resolve those issues is.
To build a successful business, you need to learn how to love the process of solving problems, how to learn from them and how to grow as a result. Whether tackling problems individually or as part of a team, the key is to start by following a logical 7-step process;
1. List everything that is not currently right and be clear what the challenge is
Many business leaders fall at the first hurdle by jumping straight into solution mode before they understand the issue. Often, a small problem can become a big one by acting before you think, so take the time to define the problem before you plan the solution.
2. Understand that some things are out of your control and others may be opportunities in waiting (if managed correctly)
There are some things in business that are beyond your control. These are not problems so much as facts of life – identify which challenges you can control or influence the outcome and focus your attention on these.
Remember also, what often may appear to be a problem is actually an opportunity in disguise if planned and managed correctly.
3. Challenge the issue from all angles
Question the root cause of the issue, rather than treating a symptom. If you don’t get to the root, the problem will likely recur, perhaps with different symptoms.
Apply your ‘best thinking’ on how you can generate a different result. Come up with a variety of options and alternatives and critique each option /alternative – how could it go wrong? What risks could I encounter?
4. Tackle one priority at a time
Prioritise the challenges and solutions you should tackle first and why. Often an acceptable solution, which can be actioned immediately, is preferable to a better solution that involves higher degrees of complexity, longer timeframes, and more cost.
There is an old saying along the lines of “every large problem was once a small problem that could have been solved easily at that time” – don’t miss opportunities to reduce problems before they escalate.
5. Decide on a preferred option and commit
Create a timely plan of action – finding an immediate first step. First up, make a decision by selecting a solution and determining a course of action.
The longer you delay, the greater the cost, and the larger the potential negative impact on your business. As a rule of thumb, you should always look to resolve 80 percent of all problems immediately – regardless of whether that’s a customer complaint via email or a staffing issue.
6. Assign responsibility
Solutions require action, so define who is responsible for the different elements; otherwise you risk having to implement all the solutions yourself. Creating a culture of ACT – accountability, challenge and tension is essential in arriving at the ‘right’ solution.
7. Evaluate success and make tweaks as appropriate
Set a measure for success, otherwise you will have no way of knowing when and whether the problem has been solved or how different aspects of the solution have performed.
Solving challenges can be complicated but there are a number of elements / behaviours that are essential in generating smart outcomes.
The businesses / teams / individuals that thrive are the ones that embrace difficult situations and work tirelessly to re-evaluate and re-engineer their results, processes and skills.