Strategic Teams Achieving Results

Solving Problems with Practical Solutions


Posted on May 22nd, by Mary Elizabeth Murphy in 2009, Weekend Attitude Adjustment. No Comments

solve problems1_290x136_scaled_croppIt’s the beginning of summer, Memorial Day Weekend. What are your plans? Will you be honoring the day with family? Sharing time with friends? As you gather with friends and family what will you find yourselves discussing? Will you share stories of success or commiserate over your most current problem? It is easy to discuss the “current economic condition” or how “hard” it is at work due to the layoffs. Stretching the dollar sure has become a problem.

I found myself thinking this past week about how often we tend to focus on our problems, not necessarily the solutions. It seems that we spend more energy talking about our problems than actually doing anything to rid ourselves of them. I mean really, sometimes it as though our problems become a part of our identity. Who would I be if not for my problems?

So, if you are growing a bit weary of discussing the “current problem” or listening to Aunt Edna and Cousin Frank tell you all about what is wrong this week in their world, then please continue reading. This Weekend Attitude Adjustment will provide you with some tools so that when your neighbor Larry starts down his road of woe you might actually help him to uncover some practical solutions. And then you can both get on with enjoying the day!

Isaac Asimov hit the nail on the head when he said, “If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”

This is so true. Learning how to solve problems is one of those topics in the world that we don’t spend time learning about. While we may “talk” through our problems, learning about them is a whole different story. Think of the lost productivity at work or the lost emotional energy in your personal life spent dealing with “problem dramas.”

How do you reduce the “problem dramas” and get on with constructive working and living?
Imagine the freed up energy you could put toward other areas of your life. What about yourself or a peer who is stuck in their ways? While you can’t change a leopard’s spots, you can change behavior.

Rather than stew over a problem, work on finding solutions to resolve it. Use these six steps to solve problems:
1. Define the problem and the expected results. Ask yourself, “What is the problem?” State it as specifically as possible giving attention to all facets of the problem. Charles Kettering once said, “A problem well-defined is half solved.” Ask yourself, “is this the real problem?”
2. Collect facts and ideas. Collect, as many facts, ideas and opinions as you believe may be necessary to provide insights into the problem.
3. Generate solutions. Gather all possible solutions, no matter how wild they may seem. This is the time to brainstorm. All ideas are possible solutions at this stage. Use everyone’s creative imaginations and note all possible solutions. In the words of Bertrand Russell, “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” A favorite question I like to ask myself or others when I feel stuck is, “I know I can’t but if I could what would I …?” By asking this question it eliminates the “yeah buts” and opens up the thinking to possibility.
4. Pick the best solution. Which of the solutions in Step 3 would most possibly give you the results you defined in Step 1?
5. Implement the solution. Start acting on the solution. Remember that you may have more problems by not doing anything than by doing the wrong thing.
6. Evaluate the solution. Is the solution working? Are you achieving the desired results? Now is the time to make any modifications that may be necessary.

Jot down these 6 steps. Spend some time this weekend applying this system to your problems. Then later when you are at that picnic, pool party or soccer game and Sara or Sam approach you with their latest dilemma you will be prepared for a healthy, constructive conversation that may result in a practical solution.

Ahhh, now doesn’t that feel better? A practical solution is as refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade on a warm day. And now I’m off for a burger…  until next time I remain …

Joyfully yours,
Mary Elizabeth

 

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