problemsolvingSolving business problems is what keeps us all employed! It is an interesting dynamic because once you solve or fix one problem another problem typically arises. The word problem is defined as “a puzzle, question, set for solution”. There are good problems (i.e.; increased sales/growth) and there are bad problems (i.e.; decreased revenues/sales) both require the same problem solving process and if problem resolution is successful, new challenges arise.
So you ask, why would an increase in sales and business growth be a problem? The problem (albeit a good one to have) is determining how to handle the growth from a process, customer and logistical perspective. For example, if you have a start-up software company that caters to a specialized niche and growth is faster than projected, your company will be scrambling to find the manpower, service support and logistics to ensure the customer experience is superior for new clients. Start-ups need to make a great first impression with the quality of the product as well as the customer experience to attract and retain customers.
5 Steps to Solving Problems in Business
1. Develop a Process to Identify Problems
The first step is to have a process that identifies when problems arise so they can be addressed as quickly as possible. It is important to be ahead of the curve so the customer experience is not impacted. For example, if the receptionist has the responsibility of tracking caller complaints on a certain product, there should be parameters and guidelines for her to alert leadership of the issues. The sooner the issue can be identified the quicker a plan of action can be put together to resolve the problem.
2. Collect Data
Accurate data should be the cornerstone for decision making and collecting and analyzing business data should be incorporated into the day-to-day operation. It is difficult to know if an organization is meeting business objectives and goals if they don’t have measures in place to monitor progress. For example, if a business goal is to increase sales by 10%, there needs to be a process to collect and monitor sales data to ensure it is progressing toward the goal.
3. Learn from Key Stakeholders
Many organizations neglect one of their most valuable resources - their key stakeholders. Employees, customers and even volunteers can contribute priceless information that can help identify and solve organizational problems. For example, if an employee is working with outdated machinery, that is being repaired more than it is operational, that is down time that cannot be afforded. Employees should have an easy process to get equipment issues resolved quickly so product quality and production is not impacted.
4. Identify Possible Solutions
Once data is collected, analyzed and discussed with key stakeholders, work with a team to identify possible solutions and put a plan in place. Take some time to think through the detail and use the team to help with the implementation of the plan. For example, if an objective is to improve the customer experience through improved customer satisfaction scores, develop a plan to decrease customer service call wait times.
5. Test Results
After the improvement plan has been implemented go back and collect data to test the results to see if improvements were realized. Some results can be realized very quickly while others may take time to come about. If desired results weren’t realized, go back to the group and test a different solution. For example, if call wait times improved but customer satisfaction scores did not, seek more customer feedback to flush out other possible solutions, develop a plan and implement.
Managers have the responsibility of problem solving within the work environment. Developing systems and processes to identify issues and create plans to solve problems is how great organizations improve. Don’t underestimate the importance of talking to key stakeholders and customers to find out those things that could be fixed to create a better product and customer experience.
Patricia Lotich is the founder of The Thriving Small Business and a small business coach. Patricia helps business owners solve problems and develop strategy and goals to achieve objectives. Schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation with Patricia to see how Thriving Small Business can help your organization.