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Problem Solving Made Easy

Aug 17, 2007
"Problems are opportunities in work clothes". Henry J Kaiser, American industrialist

"I proceed with a courageous and honest analysis of the situation. Then I determine what the worst consequences of my failure could be. After imagining the most disastrous consequences that could result, I resign myself to accept them in case it becomes necessary. From that moment on, I concentrate all my time and energy to looking for ways that could alleviate the consequences which, mentally, I have already accepted". Dale Carnegie, American orator

Problems: You either love 'em or hate 'em. For some they represent a challenge, something from which to learn. For others problems are the beginning of the end, a reason to 'down tools' for the day. This is what distinguishes winners from losers, business successes from failures.

Positive thinkers act in a similar way to Carnegie, namely recognising that a problem exists, understanding the possible consequences, anticipating the worst possible scenario, and formulating their objectives on this.

Recognising That a Problem Exists

All problems share one characteristic. All are deviations from the norm. For example, where your average/anticipated sales during a given period are 200, you have a potential problem where actual sales are significantly less.

All successful businesses set standards. The first step towards solving problems presupposes that you have determined measurable standards against which to measure progress and performance. From this, you periodically compare actual against projected performance. This is best achieved as a team exercise, including management and staff, as appropriate.

Analysing the Problem: Defining its Scope

Here you are locating and determining the extent of your problem, deciding whether it has short-term or long-term consequences. A well-defined problem is almost solved and frequently the solution is obvious. A useful tip is to draw up a 'Problem Analysis Worksheet', including vertical columns where aspects of the problem can be recorded: what the problem is, who was responsible for it, when it occurred, what its consequences might be, what the ideal situation would be (your objectives), how serious the problem is, and so on. Having considered all aspects of the problem, as a team, the group then lists possible solutions.

Focus on Objectives: Classify these as 'Essential' or 'Desirable'

Your objectives are results you want to achieve, your ideal situation. These should be listed as 'essential' or 'desirable'.

Compare Suggested Solutions against Objectives

Again, preferably as a team, all solutions are considered in terms of how successful they might be at achieving your objectives, primarily 'essentials'.

Choose a Tentative Solution from Your List

One potential solution will usually reveal itself as most suitable for achieving your objectives. This is the one you should initiate in the first instance.

Put the Solution into Practice and Monitor the Consequences

Once initiated, the consequences must be monitored and adverse occurrences identified and controlled. Some changes might be necessary, especially for unexpected events. Alternatively, and only as a last resort, you may find you have to choose another from your list of possible solutions. Whatever happens, you will almost certainly have your problem under control, maybe not solved, but manageable.

Alternative Problem-Solving

An extremely useful tip from the late Joe Karbo, American motivational writer and entrepreneur, is to delegate the problem. To your computer! Not the Amstrad, Apple or Atari; this computer is far more complex, infinitely more powerful. The computer Karbo and others like him refer to is your unconscious computer - your mind!

According to many psychologists and motivational gurus, we use only a tiny proportion of our U/Cs. Programming the U/C to solve your problem is easy, all you have to do is ask. This is what you do:

Write the problem down at the top of a clean sheet of paper. Section the remainder of the page into two vertical columns.

Try to solve the problem yourself. On the left-hand side, write down all possible ways to solve your problem. Include reasons. On the other side, list the potential drawbacks of each considered solution.

Ask your U/C to choose the best solution from those listed or to come up with another. This might sound silly, but believe me it isn't. Karbo tells readers to think of your U/C as 'another person, an employee or assistant'. We must tell that other person 'I want the answer to this problem by tomorrow morning ... or four o'clock this afternoon'. Then you just forget it, go to sleep or turn to doing something else.

Surely enough, just as that name you've struggled to remember will suddenly come to you long after you've given up trying, your U/C will provide the answer you need. Try it, it works.
About the Author
(c)2005 eGDC Ltd
Adrian Kennelly is the webmaster of DirectoryGold Web Directory & Portal which includes Free Online Games
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