For managers, it is normal to face a number of problems and tackle issues when they are doing a project. It is rare for a project to go smoothly and without any problem as a project involves number of different processes. Glitches and roadblocks may arise that can halt the entire project.
Now, there are small problems or minor issues that can be resolved quickly and then, there are problems which are hard to solve and require both time and effort for resolution. Quite often, the problems are big enough that they form into formal projects and a formal approach is taken to solve them in the most efficient manner.
So, no matter the problem that you are facing is large or small, as a project manager, you should have a systematic approach for solving it so that it strengthens your problem-solving skills and assists you to become a more effective project manager.
Here is a step-by-step guide for you to tackle problems when you are doing a project. You should use these steps in a sequential order in order to get the best results while solving important problems:
Identify the Problem:
This is the part where you have to define the scope of the problem. Or you can say when something begins to go wrong, you should be aware. As a project manager, you should always know the progress of each of your tasks and activities. The moment a task gets stuck or you do not get the desired results as plan, you should be able to reach the origin of the problem right away. Then, identify the problem, the issues and impact it is causing and the timeline you have to solve it.
Understand the Issue:
Next, you should understand the issue. This is the part where you analyze the problem and structure it. While you are structuring a problem, you define the issue at hand and it is one of the most important problem-solving steps. When you understand the issue, you are better able to identify it to the rest of the team. This way, you can determine the right approach to solve an issue at hand.
Determine the causes:
After you have understood the issue and define the problem, you are now ready to determine the causes. You can also use a fishbone diagram in order to perform a cause and effect analysis. If you see the problem at hand as a gap between where you are positioned now and where you want to be, the causes of the problems are the roadblocks that are not allowing you to close that gap right away.
As a project manager, it is crucial that you make sure that the solutions you come up with, address the actual causes of the problems rather than symptoms of the problem. If you find a solution that fixes the symptom instead of the actual cause, the problem is likely to reoccur as it was never really solved.
Generate Ideas for Solutions:
After you have defined the problem and determined its causes as well, it is now time that you get your creative juices flowing and develop a possible solution. While doing so, you should also consider the different aspects. For example, if there is a problem coming in a certain department that is involved in the project, would its solution impact the other departments for the better? Make sure that while generating ideas and coming up with an effective solution, you take the company as a whole and consider all the aspects and impacts of the solution on other departments as well.
Brainstorming and mind mapping are some of the popular problem-solving methods in project management. According to a research by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive, quite a majority of the managers normally come up with two solutions only. Do ‘X’ or do not do ‘X’. This approach usually fails and rarely delivers success. Coming up with 30 to 40 solutions is not wise either. As you cannot spend experimenting and trying all of them. Developing three to five solutions is normally sufficient in case one doesn’t work out well for you.
Select the Ideal Solution:
After you have singled out the best ideas for problem-solving, the popular technique you can use to determine the best solution for you is using a trade-off analysis. In order to perform trade-off analysis, you have to define the crucial criteria for the problem so that you can evaluate how each solution can be compared with each other. A simple matrix is used to perform the evaluation process. The highest ranking solution will be the best solution to your problem.
Now, you have a list of possible solutions that can solve your problems. Now, you have to decide. If you are facing a personal problem or an issue that directly affects your work, choosing the options that seem best to you is sufficient. But, in other situations, it is wise to use a scoring process. If you need someone else to support the decision, you can write a few notes while taking into considerations such as cost, quality, and reputation.
In case, you are dealing with a large scale problem, you may have to follow an organizational template or policy if your solution requires a large number of funds.
Take Action and Implement the Solution:
This is where you actually put the decided solution into action. The implementation of a certain solution is a project of its own. You should have the right project management tools and the right processes in place to use. If there are a lot of actions involved in the implementation of the solution of you selected, it is wise to create an action plan first and treat the process as a mini-project to ensure that the solution is implemented correctly.
With the help of the aforementioned steps, you can not only increase your problem-solving efficiency while doing a project but boost the effectiveness of your problem-solving skills as well.