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365 Ways to Start Over: Day #22 – Killer Problem Solving (Great for Meeting Facilitation too)

Problem solving is often difficult whether the problem is yours alone or one that requires group consideration. If the problem is personal in nature, you may feel ‘stuck’ in moving forward. In working with groups of people either at work, in volunteer activities or in your own family it may seem impossible to generate fresh ideas or for a group to come to a consensus. Resources may be thin. Strong personalities may weigh with heavy influence. Personal agendas may come into play. Different constituents may have different goals. The following steps will help you to solve any problem whether it needs a group solution or it is a personal issue.

Problem Solving on the Fly

1. Define the problem. Write down exactly what the issue is and gain agreement from all parties. If working with a team, it is imperative that there be buy-in from everyone involved in order to gain the best solution. Is the problem that sales are down? Or is it that production cannot keep up with orders? Are you stuck and can’t make a decision on your life purpose?

2. Establish criteria for evaluating solutions. Do not consider the solution when doing this. Instead think of what will make a solution a good solution? Will it be cost efficient? Will it require low overhead? Ask the question, “The solution should be one that _______ and does not __________.” Ie: The solution should increase sales and not necessarily increase costs – thus a redistribution of resources not spending more. The solution should provide me with fulfillment in mind body and spirit and nothing is too far out to consider.

3. Identify a root cause of the problem. The root cause can most easily be defined by asking ‘Why?’ five times. Why did we miss our goal? Because we didn’t sell enough product? Why not? Because we didn’t have enough opportunities to get in front of our ideal client. Why not? Although we closed a high percentage of the clients we met with, we didn’t acquire enough leads for appointments. Why not? Because our internal sales force did not have enough training nor were they incentivized? Why not? We didn’t develop a program for this strategy.

4. Generate alternative solutions. Ie: 1) We establish a training program with skilled trainers. 2) We invest in better training for our trainers. 3) We establish an incentives program for the internal sales force. 4) We establish a referral program whereby existing customers get a price reduction for every lead that converts to a sale. Or: 1) I will devote 60 minutes everyday to doing something I have never done before. 2) I will schedule coffee meetings with three people this month that have achieved success in an area of interest to me.

5. Evaluate each solution based on the criteria in #2.

6. Select the best solutions.

7. Develop an action plan. The plan should include:1) key stakeholders, 2) key metrics that you will measure, and 3) a timeline.

8. Implement the plan. Adjust the plan along the way and record the changes so that a process becomes clear.

9. Measure the outcomes and communicate the progress. The culture of any organization, family or group relies on clear communication. Tell your plan to someone who will hold you accountable to it.

Executing this strategy closes the gap between a desired solution and a current situation in a straight forward way. For a personal issue this promotes an assessment of all viable options in an objective manner. For teams, this allows for everyone to weigh in with opinions and for everyone to own the outcome. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of Gannon Group – an executive coaching and consulting firm that produces higher individual and organizational performance through Executive Leadership Coaching, Fundraising Coaching, Organizational Development, Board Retreats, Visioning, and Planning. Mary Lee’s personal turnaround came as a stay-at-home mother, with four children under seven-years-old, who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where within a short time she worked up to the level of CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.