How Are Your Problem Solving Skills?

Working on today’s fast-paced projects calls for fine-tuning your problem solving skills.  Confronting the latest problem on your project and finding a solution can be very challenging for both you and your project team.  Some folks come wired for solving problems.  They seem to use a combination of ingenuity, creativity and common sense to get the job done.  Other folks can spin forever and never actually solve anything.  Where do you rate your problem-solving skills between these two extremes? If you rate yourself somewhere in the middle, welcome to the club. For folks who want to fine-tune your problem solving skills, here are some words of advice.

Be sure you involve the right people.  This is the best way I know to get from problem definition to a recommended set of solutions.  Once we understand what the problem is, it should be fairly easy to come up with a set of solutions that solve that problem.  Having the right people with the right knowledge involved makes this process a whole lot easier.  I have participated in problem-solving sessions where the possible solutions never got off the ground because the right people were not part of the conversations.

Work within your project constraints. Solving project problems needs to take place within the framework of your project.  This is a lot like coloring within the lines. Things like project scope, defined requirements, budget and schedule will have an impact on your selecting the best problem solution. Making sure everyone recognizes and understands the project constraints can make the problem-solving process work better.  Solutions that don’t fit within the existing framework will require approval from higher levels of management.

Never be afraid to think “out of the box”.  You never know, the most creative solution may be the best way to fix things.  Sometimes coloring outside the lines makes for a better picture. Of course, I have heard some pretty far-out solutions over the years.  Making things more complicated can cause additional problems downstream if the team isn’t careful.  That means use your lateral thinking skills along with your common sense. Sometimes doing something “wild and crazy” to solve a project problem. Often, I find that the simplest solution is the most creative, elegant and cost-effective way to address a problem.

Don’t forget about the “do nothing” solution.  This approach should also be on the table for consideration.  Maybe you don’t want to color a particular picture in your coloring book, so you decide to leave it as is. Not every problem needs to be solved, at least not right away.  Sometimes, potential solutions are not cost-effective or timely.  These solutions may be deferred or skipped as part of “doing nothing”.

Speaking of problem-solving skills, I watched my husband deal with a problem as he got our back deck ready to bear the weight of a new fire pit.  Problem: If you need to replace or add joists under an existing deck with a crawl space under it, how does one person do it with minimal disruption to the deck surface.  The joists are 2″ x 8″ x 10′.  So, each piece is relatively heavy and long.

Solution:

Image

A picture does indeed speak a thousand words.

Happy problem solving!

Susan Weese

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