5 Steps For Solving Large Problems

If you run a business, or are a leader in an organization, you’ll undoubtedly encounter large, complex problems. These are the problems that keep things from getting done or act as roadblocks to growth. What I’m going to share with you are five steps for solving those complex problems.

Do these five things and you will have resolution quickly. Skip or change any of them and you won’t. Simple as that.

1 – Involve Only People with Power to Create Change

Anyone can point to a house and tell you it’s on fire. Only a rare few can or will work to put it out. Those are the people you want involved in a meeting about the resolutions. You don’t want people who are adept at communicating problems. Also, just because a person is impacted by a problem does not entitle them to a vote or voice in the solution.

Nobody likes to be left out so prepare to hurt a few feelings. That’s okay. You need people who can walk out of the meeting and act without needing more permission.

You want people of action. Scratch that. You need people of action. Ignore this step and you’ll get mired in the back-and-forth bickering and positioning that will prevent forward progress.

2 – Define the Problem(s) Without Passing Judgement

Sometimes the problems are evident (like a burning building). Other times, the problem is more like an interconnected web that’s tangled and jumbled. Let everyone in the meeting define what they see are the problems.

If you have the right people, this will not turn into a frenzy. If anyone begins to whine, pass judgement on a problem or person, or point fingers, stop them immediately. If they continue, give them the boot. See step 1 above – no whiners allowed.

At this stage, do not attempt to offer up solutions! I can’t stress this enough. A lot of what you’ll hear during this stage are symptoms of the underlying problems – that’s okay. Let the symptoms guide you to the root cause.

3 – Discuss All Possible Solutions

With the problems defined, get the team to start offering up solutions, but don’t pre-judge them. Get them all out on the table first. All problems have more than one possible answer. Listen and observe. Come up with variations of the solutions offered up by others.

Be creative. Think of every angle. The time is over for pointing out the problem. Think about what you can do to fix this.

4 – Ruthlessly Weed The Solutions

Not all solutions are created equal. At this stage, you need to cull the bad ones. Explore the good ones. Pick them apart. But do it objectively. Don’t be married to your proposals. Let them sink or swim on their own merits.

If someone is needlessly getting attached to their proposed solutions, point it out. If the rest of the team agrees it’s not the best solution and the person will not let it go, ask them to leave. See step 1 above.

5 – Immediately Implement the Solutions

If you have the right people in the room and you’ve decided on the best course of action, don’t wait to get started. Don’t wait for meeting minutes. Don’t wait for “strategic initiative” documents that act as large CYA for those who are afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

On top of that, if you wait to get started, people will over-think the solutions. Fear and resistance will creep in. Progress will stop and you’ll have a new set of problems.

Step 1 required that you select people who have the power to create change without additional permission. If you did that, you should all be able to walk out of that room and make things happen. If not, you just wasted everyone’s time.

Wrapping Up

There you have it. Do these 5 things and you can quickly solve large and complex problems. Ignore any of them and you won’t.

Questions: When have you tried to solve large problems only to skip one of these steps? How did it turn out? Which step(s) did you skip or ignore? Looking at how you handle problems, are you the type of person that offers solutions or just points out the problem?

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