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Solve Complex Problems with the Right Approach

Great problem solvers are made, not born. That’s what we’ve found after working with leaders across the business for decades. These leaders learn to adopt a particularly open and curious mindset when approaching even the most perplexing of problems - they can be found admirably applying such a mindset to every aspect of their lives and do so in a systematic way with respect to these three types of decisions:

Big Bet decisions

What matters most to senior executives are big-bet decisions. This can be a possible acquisition, which can be high risk, happen infrequently, yet have the possibility to shape the future of the company. These are generally the domain of top teams and board members.

Cross-cutting decisions

A good example would be such as a pricing decision, which can be high risk and is made in cross-functional forums while remaining true to an organization's end-to-end process.

Delegated decisions

These are termed as frequent but low risk (therefore remaining under less scrutiny than other types) and are effectively handled by an individual or working team, with limited input from others.

To build problem-solving ability, use an approach that will help you drill down to the root of what’s really going on and then formulate a plan for moving forward. The process is designed to move from the broadest picture to a focused examination of exactly what needs to be done in order to find your own personal solutions. You won't have to decide anything on your own so work hard at articulating your goals and objectives, potential solutions, or ideas.

Visualize the issue

Define the problem your organization is facing. This should be in a few sentences with specific facts and metrics (something along the lines of X % of costs/losses, or by doing A this will result in Y).

While it may be helpful to visualize the problem, it's easier to understand a more complicated situation if you can see all of its aspects in front of you at once. Drawing out is one great way to capture all of these elements as a diagram or chart. For example, if you want a faster time frame for developing and selling your products, you might draw out a process map or blueprint for your team that for instance illustrates the various stages involved in creating new products and getting them out into the marketplace.

Breaking large problems or projects down into smaller, more manageable pieces is an excellent strategy for working together as a team and making progress on your project! Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish when planning this project. A common goal among teams will be avoiding being overwhelmed during the time it takes to reach your end goals. Additionally, get a list of all the tasks that need to be completed in order to complete your goals and organize them in the order they must be accomplished by breaking them down by different members of your team so that you can collectively finish the job sooner.

Define the Outcome

Defining a business objective is just as important as defining a destination. The objective determines what key results you need to have so that you know for sure you’ve achieved your goal. It’s important - not only for small businesses but large corporations too -- that an objective should be focused on the goal and not necessarily on the solution as it might change along the journey. The objective should then be well-defined before commencing with any solutions, with eventual solutions in mind to enable you to define measurable Key Results.

Solve the root cause

As a strategist for your company or client, engaging in challenging activities is guaranteed to be the main focus of your work. Actions that are high impact and low effort make a good impression in the eyes of other people since they are quick wins, while solutions that are either very low impact or too high impact but not something you can really have control over (due to its nature) are not worth much more time than it takes to put them out of your mind so you can move on to the next task at hand. Solutions that will likely cost much more energy than they're worth should not burden you with additional stress; instead, pay attention to any projects which could be considered a waste of time or require extensive amounts of energy for things you won't see as being well-rewarded by an increase in employee loyalty or stakeholder confidence for example.

Putting implementation into action

Along with determining the stages or steps, you’ll follow to resolve the problem, you also need to develop a timeline for completion. Important due dates for work and other areas should be taken into account. This timeline also needs to include time for research, lining up resources and getting help, factoring in unexpected delays or complications, and a cushion so you’re not so pressured toward the end.

To avoid miscalculations, make sure you break it down logically and efficiently by using a problem-solving model. First, determine the responsible party and assign them with the job of ascertaining what the specific problem is. Then note all of the potential possibilities for solving this problem and divide them into as many sections as necessary based on priority/importance. From then on, take everything from each possible category that can possibly solve your specific problem and list them out in a very clear manner.

Managing Stakeholders

Every stakeholder should also be clear on what they need to do to meet these deadlines. Make sure one person is responsible for documenting tasks and action items and sharing them with the rest of the team. Good meeting discipline is also a must for follow-up.

For example, a mining company realized that its poor decision-making was related to the lack of rigor with which executives ran important meetings. As a result, the top team developed a “meeting manifesto” that spelled out required behaviors, starting with punctuality. The new rules also required leaders to clarify their decision rights in advance and to be more deliberate about managing the number of participants so that meetings wouldn't become bloated, on the one hand, or lack diverse views, on the other.

Improve on Meeting efficiency

Unnecessary meetings are one of the biggest time-wasters at work. Many of these meetings were once useful, but their value has diminished as time has gone on and they continue to be scheduled with no action notes or minutes to follow up on between sessions. These types of meetings can cause a great deal of wasted time, so it's important to hold them closely with agenda and action list items only when necessary or eliminate them together.

Consider redesigning unnecessary check-in-style meetings by using tools such as along with screen sharing capabilities so that participants can have conversations across the web rather than in the same room (although we still advocate for clients to meet in person when needed). While online meetings aren't always the most effective form of meeting because of things like poor sound quality and network connection troubles, they offer a decent option for those who have trouble being present during hard-set meeting times (i.e., salespeople on the move). That doesn't mean you shouldn't meet at all, it means that you need to implement a meeting policy and stick to it.

Impact of a wrong move

Good customer experiences can literally be life-changing and businesses that offer great experiences have legions of repeat customers. On the other hand, bad customer service has the potential to lose customers so it’s vital that businesses know how important it is to give their customers a good experience. In our research, we found that consumers are more likely to punish bad service than reward delightful service because companies who fail to deliver on their most basic promises will often get in trouble with the people they rely on most, such as employees, investors, or clients. Instead of making this mistake, we suggest that companies focus all their attention on fulfilling those basic promises and then realize those small successes early on in contact when the opportunity costs are lowest and the gains are highest!

To give their customers the best service, companies need to look at these complaints as not one-off problems to fix and forget. Companies should determine what caused these issues and then figure out ways to make changes so that future customers will be less likely to complain about them. The old saying that the “customer is always right” still holds true today as more brands appear on the market, making competition harder than ever before.

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