When you have a business problem to solve, what do you do? Do you mull it over for as long as you can and then make a decision because there’s no time left, even though you’re not really sure about it? Do you ever discover when it’s too late, and you are briefing your staff that someone actually had a better solution, but they hadn’t known it was needed?
Problems come in many forms. It could be how to deal with a customer’s complaint. Perhaps it represents a significant opportunity, if only you knew the best way to respond to an invitation to tender or invest. Or is it that a competitor has the edge on a product, and you must find ways to develop something even better?
Getting a Handle on the Problem
You may have to make the decisions for your own business, but that doesn’t mean you have to make them in isolation. The first thing you have to do when a problem arises is make sure you have a clear definition of it and what caused it. You need to clarify it in your own mind before you can communicate it to anyone else you might decide to involve. Sometimes a problem might be raised by someone else on your team, and if you haven’t already recognised it yourself, this aspect is really crucial. No problem can be effectively solved unless it is fully understood.
Who Can Help?
For something really serious, if you can afford it, you might want to call in a consultant who specialises in your sector and market, as well as in problem solving. Or you might prefer to look closer to home. Arranging a group brainstorming session can be less time consuming for you than talking to people individually. You’ll only have to explain the problem once and make sure people understand its parameters.
When you come to evaluate the ideas you’ll be really surprised at some of the things that come up. Make it plain that you value everything that has been suggested, even though they can’t all be used at that time. If you get everyone to award points to the ideas after they’ve been discussed, you might come away with a clear winner.
All kinds of people could be involved, from senior managers to the office gopher. You could even invite your outsourced bookkeepers to take part and offer some independent wisdom. Don’t struggle on alone. Even just talking through a problem for ten minutes can help you see the light.