76 / LEADING OTHERS
Solving problems
Managerial success depends on making the right decisions at the
right times. However, unless you define a problem and identify its
root causes, it is impossible to make appropriate decisions about
how to solve it. Effective managers know how to gather and evaluate
information that clarifies a problem, develop alternatives, and weigh
up the implications of a plan before implementing it. They are able to
analyze data and use their teams to develop creative solutions.
Spotting problems
A problem exists when a situation is
not what is needed or desired. A major
responsibility for all managers is to
maintain a constant lookout for existing
or potential problems, and to spot
them early before they escalate into
serious situations. Managers fulfill
this responsibility by keeping channels
of communication open, monitoring
employees’ current performance,
and examining deviations from present
plans as well as from past experience.
Four situations can alert managers
to possible problems:
A deviation from past experience
A deviation from a set plan
When other people communicate
problems to you
When competitors start
to outperform your team
or organization.
The problem-
solving process
IDENTIFYING
DEFINING
Being conscious
of what is going
on around you,
so you can spot
problems early.
Making a careful
analysis of the
problem to be
solved, in order to
define it as clearly
as possible.
Definition is
important even if
the solution to
the problem
appears to
be obvious
SOLVING PROBLEMS / 77
Finding solutions
Problem solving involves closing the
gap between what is actually taking
place and a desired outcome. Once
you have identified a problem that
needs to be addressed, start by
analyzing the problem and defining
it as clearly as you can. This is a key
step: the definition you generate will
have a major impact on all remaining
steps in the process. If you get the
definition wrong, all remaining steps
will be distorted, because you will
base them on insufficient or erroneous
information. Definition is important
even if the solution appears to be
obvious—without a full assessment
you may miss an alternative resolution
that is more advantageous.
Gather as much information
about the situation as you can. Try
to understand the goals of all of the
parties involved, and clarify any aspects
of the problem you are unclear about.
Developing an action plan
Once you are satisfied that you have a
full understanding of the issues, develop
courses of action that could provide a
resolution to the problem. There is often
more than one way to solve a problem,
so it is critical to consider all possible
solutions and arrive at several
alternatives from which to choose.
Implementing and monitoring
Your decision will provide you with an
action plan. However, this will be of little
value unless it is implemented effectively.
Defining how, when, and by whom the
action plan is to be implemented and
communicating this to those involved is
what connects the decision with reality.
Your involvement should not end at
implementation. Establish criteria for
measuring success, then track progress
and take corrective actions when
necessary. Try to develop and maintain
positive attitudes in everyone involved.
MAKING THE
DECISION
IMPLEMENTING
FOLLOWING UP
Evaluating the
alternatives and
choosing a course
of action that
will improve
the situation in a
significant way.
Setting your action
plan in motion, by
creating a schedule
and assigning tasks
and responsibilities.
Monitoring
progress, to
ensure that the
desired outcome
is achieved.

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