Ready-to-use problem-solving strategies for leaders
In this article, we explore the various problem-solving strategies that leaders can employ, so that they can overcome the unavoidable turbulence of modern business.
Problems are a fact of life - both in business and more generally. And they range from small (Which route should I take to avoid the morning traffic?) to significant (How do we respond to changing market conditions?).
For leaders, one of the many core competencies that they must be able to deliver is the ability to solve problems effectively. After all, what else is leadership if not the ability to set strategy and deliver upon it, despite changing circumstances?
Facing adversity is rarely straightforward, and the responsibilities of a leader grow ever more diverse. So how do leaders equip themselves to respond to the myriad situations that can arise?
Problem-solving strategies are a great place to start. They provide leaders with a yardstick by which to measure the problems they are facing, and give a springboard to help them overcome these hurdles.
In this article, we will explore the various problem-solving strategies that a leader can employ, so that they can overcome the unavoidable bumps in the road in the future.
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Why are problem-solving strategies so essential?
When the inevitable bumps in the road do appear, we need to learn how to respond. Much like a pilot who learns techniques to navigate turbulence on a flight, leaders need to learn a protocol to follow when problems do arise. These are known as problem-solving strategies.
Problem-solving strategies give leaders confidence to forge ahead when the path isn’t always clear. They are the series of checkpoints, processes, and decision-making techniques that enable leaders to chart the course through uncertain waters and ensure that their ship stays on course. After all, a pilot ensures that the plane still safely reaches its destination, despite the turbulence along the way.
Problem-solving strategies are, therefore, a vital component of modern leadership - as if recent events have shown us anything, it’s that anything can happen.
Problem-solving strategies give leaders confidence to forge ahead when the path isn’t always clear.
Consider the example of a traditional private bank. Before 2020, all leadership meetings were conducted in person, and all employees worked from the office, five days a week. With the threats to our collective health that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it, it was necessary to switch to working remotely - almost overnight.
This presented significant challenges, and was a threat to business continuity for this particular organisation. By embracing the unknown, utilising a number of problem-solving strategies, and adapting swiftly, these challenges were overcome, and the organisation is likely to keep some remote working in place even after the pandemic is long forgotten. In addition to continuing constructing solutions that help satisfy customers’ needs, and maintaining their trust.
In the following, we consider some of the problem-solving techniques that are available to leaders - no matter what business challenges come their way.
Ready-to-use problem-solving strategies
1. Define the problem
Before you can dive into solving your problem, the first component of any problem-solving strategy should be to fully define the obstacle you are facing. This should include the nature of the problem, the time constraints of the problem, and the areas that it affects. This will help you begin to break it down.
2. Chunk it down
Sometimes problems seem completely insurmountable, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed from the outset. As the old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…” and the same is definitely true for solving problems. Therefore, a key problem-solving strategy is to chunk any problem down into smaller, more manageable parts. This will help you to deal with each component in isolation, rather than trying to tackle everything at once.
3. Involve the experts
As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Involving experts from different areas of your business is a great way to gain different perspectives, and benefit from others’ subject-matter expertise, which can be an invaluable problem-solving strategy. Once your problem is defined and chunked down, arranging a brainstorming meeting is a great way of moving things forward. Of course, only involve those who are needed - but that should be true for every meeting.
4. Be visual
Once you’ve brainstormed ideas and benefited from others’ creativity, mapping out your problems visually can be a helpful way to find creative solutions to the matters at hand. This could be as simple as creating a mindmap or a miro board, and you can of course involve others as needed.
5. Use Algorithms
The potential of technology is seemingly boundless, and its place in problem-solving is well cemented. Algorithms are a step-by-step process that always yield the correct response given a selection of inputs. They are based on age-old mathematics, but applied using modern technology they can help us to make deductions and formulate decisions far quicker than humans ever could on their own. While they may not be appropriate for every type of problem, for well-defined problems, algorithms could be a worthy addition to your problem-solving armoury.
6. Try Trial and Error
One of the most effective problem-solving strategies is also one of the most straightforward. Trial and error is a great way to explore different ideas, and find solutions that work best for a given situation. By experimenting and iterating quickly, you are able to find new and innovative solutions to your problems. Furthermore, trial and error offers plenty of opportunities to learn from your mistakes (see number 4.)
7. Learn from your mistakes
And last, but by no means least, learning from your mistakes is imperative when it comes to bolstering your problem-solving strategies. Finding techniques that work well usually involves a fair amount of trial and error, and continuously iterating your approach to problem-solving relies heavily on learning from the errors you will undoubtedly experience along the way.
Problem-solving strategies: A vital string on any leaders bow
Recent events have, seemingly, eroded our ability to confidently plan ahead and predict the future. With this, the external environment seems more prone than ever to turbulence, and as the pilots of their organisations, leaders need to be able to make the right strategic decisions and act swiftly to address threats and upheavals - at an alarming rate.
Problem-solving strategies are therefore more vital than ever, and leaders need to embrace them with the gusto that they would welcome a new opportunity. After all, being able to overcome problems and deal with adversity is central to whether organisations live or die in the new normal.