A Quick Problem-Solving Strategy

One simple and effective technique will help you solve most of the difficulties your team runs into. Follow these steps:

1. Define the problem.

Do some research and include all the details. If a series of tasks was mishandled, include notes on each job and try to pinpoint where each error occurred.

2. Brainstorm possible causes.

List the factors that contribute to the problem, including those that seem out of your control—such as a customer who changed his mind or any last-minute mechanical problems—and

those you know you can influence, including things such as poor performance and faulty methods.

3. Analyze the data.

Try to identify any trends or patterns that could point out underlying problems. Describe how the problem is affecting other departments, your customers or team members' job satisfaction. This information will help you decide if the problem is worth trying to solve. If the consequences are insignificant, it may not be worth your team's effort.

4. Generate possible solutions.

Challenge team members to come up with as many solutions as possible. To encourage creative

thinking, don't let members judge either the ideas or the team members who present them.

5. Agree on one solution.

After you've generated a list of ideas, use consensus to select the most likely solution.

6. Develop an action plan.

Discuss and agree upon clearly defined action steps. Assign volunteers to those steps, and then agree on a time frame for each.


Source: Team Management Briefings, as adapted from Managing Quality Through Teams, Lawrence M. Miller and Jennifer Howard, The Miller Consulting Group