When you set out to resolve problems that are outside your sphere of influence, there is often no clear place to start. Unless a particular situation is begging for your attention, start by making a list of outcomes where the results failed to meet expectations.
Use the four-step, problem-solving guide as your template, filling in each section as the details emerge. Resist the urge to solve the problem until the investigation is complete.
Step I – Identify Cause
- Define precisely what went wrong.
- Gather data on what, where, when, and how it happened.
- Explore the factors that might have triggered the deviation.
- Select the most likely cause for the deviation.
- Test assumptions—is the problem likely to reoccur?
Step II – Develop Options
- Determine who “owns” the problem.
- Define expected desired results.
- Generate a list of workable options in priority order.
- Invite input from those impacted by the alternatives.
- Pick the solution most likely to work.
Step III – Implement Solution
- Seek out possible opposition to the action plan.
- Brainstorm potential threats to the decision.
- Determine the severity of each threat.
- Estimate the probability of a negative outcome.
- Clarify authority, responsibility, and reporting relationships.
Step IV – Evaluate Result
- Set timelines and measurements.
- Establish negative and positive incentives for compliance.
- Make sure that appropriate action was taken.
- Follow-up to see if the problem was resolved.
- Record the results.