When reviewing a resume, problem-solving skills are often identified as a crucial soft skill for candidates. In other words, it’s viewed as something that can’t be quantified or taught; it’s a personality trait.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. Not only is problem-solving a skill that can be taught, but it’s also integral for long-term success and profitability. Here are some practical steps for improving problem-solving skills in your business.
Identify Problems and Causes
The first step in developing problem-solving skills is learning to identify and clarify problems. It means learning to understand what the problem is, what processes it impacts, why it’s a problem, and how it should be corrected.
The ability to clearly define a problem and cause is a foundational skill that’s typically overlooked in a solution-oriented world. When it comes to problem-solving, however, one must look back before starting to look ahead.
Invest in Your People
The best businesses invest in their people at all levels, from the frontline workers to the C-suite executive. It’s important to understand the varying perspectives and value of experience at each level of an organization. Frontline workers understand the challenges of a daily business in a way executive employees cannot.
Invest in your people to help them develop strong problem-solving skills. The Six Sigma program is a multi-tiered training opportunity that teaches students how to analyze data, make strategic decisions, and eliminate waste in business. The Six Sigma Yellow Belt, in particular, focuses on strategic problem-solving skills. This type of program not only helps the business thrive but also nourishes a promote-from-within culture.
Seek to Treat Causes Over Symptoms
One challenge decision-makers face in business is getting caught up in the symptoms of a problem rather than identifying the root cause. Medical analogies work well for describing this challenge. Say, for example, that you get tension headaches from leaning over paperwork all day. Taking Tylenol helps treat the pain when those headaches arise, but unless you change your posture at work, they’ll never go away completely.
When looking at a problem in your business, backtrack until you find the original cause of the issue. What appears to be problems with an outdated program could actually be a process that needs to be changed a few steps before. Failing to look at the bigger picture will result in a failure to correct the root cause.
Brainstorm and Prioritize Potential Solutions
Take the time to brainstorm several solutions, even if the best resolution seems obvious. Then, take a deep dive to explore the pros and cons of each potential solution and prioritize them accordingly.
Failing to explore several options means starting from scratch should you meet a barrier along the way. Until you take the time to understand the implications and contingencies of a proposed solution, you’ll be working at a deficit.
Identify Success Measurements
The work isn’t complete once you’ve chosen a potential solution for a problem. A part of developing strong problem-solving skills is learning how to quantify your success.
Identify how you’ll measure success once your solution is put in place. Fortunately, selecting success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) tends to be straightforward, especially with AI and data-capturing programs that are readily accessible.
If you’ve determined that the problem was time management and productivity, your KPI will focus on how much is getting completed over a specified period. If your problem was losing money in a certain area of your business, seeing those numbers slow or turn around would be a measurement of success.
Finally, create accountability surrounding execution and success measurement. Rather than identifying a problem that needs to be solved and how to solve it, go one step further and determine who is responsible for ensuring the job gets done.
With these simple steps, you can improve the problem-solving process within your business. Rather than relying on candidates with this skill, invest in your people and incorporate training that helps everyone become a better problem-solver.