Problem solving skills are utilized in every aspect of our lives but of course, we do not like to deal with problems. Problem solving skills in the workplace takes on a totally different mindset and level of importance; if the problem is not addressed correctly it could mean a black mark on your career. Most of us like to take the path of least resistance because it’s less painful and many times it is quicker and easier. However, how many times have you focused on fixing the symptoms and not the problem? For example, subject recruitment in clinical trials is a common problem but we tend to focus on particular investigational sites not performing rather than seeing if there is issue with clinical protocol adherence, disease type under study, country culture and/or ethnic group acceptance with regard to participation in the clinical trial. The ultimate goal is to avoid future problems or at least the magnitude of the problem. Also, it is important to identify the problem and not just the symptoms.
It has been stated that in order to be effective at problem solving you need to be systematic, organized and logical in your approach, I would agree. Other areas that may be important are, effective communication skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills, stress management skills, time management skills – overall Project Management skills.
There are several Problem Solving Models you can use however, the Min Basadur’s Simplex problem solving model/process is probably the most acceptable standard and is a well developed model. In my opinion effective problem solving skills are far more important than choosing/following the correct model. The following questions and assessments should be asked and thought of when trying to solve a problem.
- What is the problem?
- Have you collected the correct information?
- Are you asking the right questions?
- Try to view the problem as the “glass half full” rather than half empty
- Utilize a team approach to obtain different perspectives
- Listen! Be flexible
- What are the solutions?
- Evaluate potential solutions
- Make a decision!(Go /No Go decision) Do not get frozen into indecision
- Establish a timeline
- Be timely but do not move too quickly to a solution
- Plan and communicate the solution
- Implementation and follow through
Due to the unpredictable nature of problems be prepared that your solution may not work, be a confident problem solver because you will meet stakeholder’s resistance. Problem solving skills are learnt skills and can be improved upon.