Solving problems is an important part of project management. As project leader, your ability to effectively forecast, identify and solve problems can often spell the difference between meeting or exceeding client expectations and a project that falls behind schedule or otherwise disappoints.
In business, the best leaders are always the best problem solvers as well. In fact, successful business executives generally focus on turning problems into opportunities.
It’s been said that successful problem solvers have circular rather than linear vision. This enables them to see around, beyond and beneath the problem itself, always searching for that next opportunity.
If you rely too much on linear vision, it can become difficult to think of a problem as a pathway to improving process, procedures and protocol. Rather than serving as a distraction to the project process, a challenge can offer a way to strategically improve your process and identify greater opportunities.
Here are four of the most common ways successful business leaders solve problems:
1. Facilitate Freedom of Communication
Problem solving is best served when there is an environment of transparent communication, where everyone involved feels they can openly express their opinions and concerns. When people feel restricted in their communication, it can be much more difficult to identify an approaching problem.
As project management leader, you can provide a foundation of facilitation, allowing for open dialogue and trust. Not only will you find stakeholders more willing to express their concerns, but you can then more easily move forward to the business of solving problems and developing opportunities.
A more open approach will help you to get a better picture of the problem, and then collectively formulate a viable and lasting solution. Communication sounds basic, but it is wrong to assume that your team and other stakeholders will feel comfortable at all times telling you what they think.
2. Surround Yourself with Open-minded People
Whether in your professional or personal life, you tend to mirror those around you. If you want to be successful in business, associate with successful business people.
The same holds true for problem solving. If you want to turn problems into opportunities, surround yourself with opportunity-oriented, open-minded folks. At its core, problem solving comes down to people working together to improve the organization, its workers and the way it serves its clients. If you are stuck in an environment of close-minded people, your ability to effectively solve problems because an unrewarding and miserable road.
The workplace is typically a cornucopia of personalities. Unfortunately, there are people who seek out chaos and when they can’t find it, they create it themselves. Most do so to avoid exposing their own less-than-stellar capabilities. There are also those who seek to slow the process down. Often these employees are on the lazy side, coasting along and getting by with as little effort as possible.
Avoid these types and others like them. Instead, discover those in your organization who seem to have the most drive and potential. Associate with them as much as possible and you’ll soon find that initiative and innovation are becoming hallmarks of your work.
3. Bust Down Organizational Silos
A common occurrence when open communication is lacking is for people to put up boundaries, as a means of protection. These unnecessary silos can serve as catalysts for hidden agendas, dysfunction among team members and lack of accountability. They also make it much more difficult to identify problems and work toward solutions.
As project manager, you can help to solve problems by busting down these silos. While they may not be at the core of most challenges you will face, organizational silos often make it more difficult to utilize effective cross-functional collaboration and problem solving.
4. Develop a Solid Strategy
Always think of a problem’s solution from a strategic view. Otherwise, you are simply pushing change with no end goal. A solid strategy is essential for solving any problem. It’s a mistake to become too focused on picking a problem apart and miss the chance to look for a strategy for change that is often hidden within the problem itself.
Part of the strategy for a solution will involve gathering the right people and resources, along with learning from past experience. By approaching problem solving from a strategic standpoint, you give others the opportunity to rise to the occasion and step up their game because they know there will be the chance for input and opinion.
Those who don’t establish a strategy for problem solving will be forced to shoot from the hip, rather than carefully assessing each situation as unique, with its own nuances and need for targeted attention.
Problem solving can become a seamless endeavor that serves to improve and grow the organization’s capabilities. It is one of the greatest enablers for growth and opportunity. Be the type of project leader, and master problem solver, who acts deliberately and requires accountability in exchange for providing an environment for honest, open communication and collaboration.