Are You Problem Oriented or Solution Oriented?
So, here’s where we are going with this. I have found that individuals that understand the distinction in being a problem solver versus just a problem identifier can make a huge difference in the success of an organization. There are many distinctions between successful and unsuccessful people. For the purposes of the topic of this discussion we will focus on one. Successful people solve problems. Unsuccessful people identify problems with no follow thorough or suggestions to solve the problem.
You will find that problem oriented people tend to criticize and find fault but can never offer suggestions and solutions with follow-up. Even when offering a suggestion it is almost always what someone else can do versus what they can do or what we can do as a team? So if you are quick to find fault or criticize without any follow through on your part you may want to ask yourself, am I problem oriented or solution oriented? We must also be careful with the language that we use. If the language is “you should do this” or “they should do this” and never here’s what we can do, we have to carefully analyze where we stand on the problem solving continuum.
Employers and leaders in all types of organizations are looking for problem solvers. Even personality, leadership assessments and interview questions are geared towards finding out if you are a problem solver. Interviewers will ask behavioral and “what if” type questions to assess your problem solving skills.
Essentially, there are four basic steps to solving a problem:
Defining the Problem
Defining the problem is different from identifying the problem. Many people tend to identify rather than define.
Identifying is defined as recognizing or bringing to the forefront an awareness of something or person or thing. It is making something known. For example, a problem in Organization A, could be the lack of productivity in the workplace. Not meeting sales quota, poor customer service, etc.
When we define the problem we get to the root or the cause of the problem. To define is to explain or make clear the nature of something. When we define the problem, we identify the cause of the problem. Therefore the cause of low productivity or poor customer service in organization A, could be low morale among the team members in the organization.
Generating Alternative Solutions
Once the problem is defined we must go about generating alternative solutions to fix the problem. A good problem solver will brainstorm and generate several solutions to the problem. With the understanding that there must always be a plan A, B and C. Since people are different and are motivated differently it is important to be multi-dimensional in problem solving. Long gone are the days of one way problem solving. The workplace and organizations in general have become too diverse to think that one way works for all people or all situations. Therefore alternative solutions must be generated.
The low morale issue in Organization A has a cause, which should have been identified in the defining stages. So dependent upon the cause some alternative solutions could be better pay, or more recognition or effective leadership, more or better resources, flexible time scheduling, etc. These solutions are dependent upon the defining of the problem in step one.
Selecting a Solution
Now that we have alternative solutions for Organization A’s low productivity problem. The problem solver must now select the solution(s). It may be one change that is made or it could be a combination of several changes that need to be made. So, in this scenario there could be a light increase in pay, if budget is an issue along with changing how leaders interact with the followers, to become more effective leaders. Perhaps, more leadership training needs to happen and/or the organization needs to hold a general assembly to allow employees to share their frustrations or find other ways to get feedback from employees. Whatever is decided a plan must be put in place to make these changes.
Implementing the Determined Solution
Now that there is a plan in place we must begin to implement the changes. We must set action goals with time frame reviews. Along with implementation comes evaluation and control/monitoring to measure the effectiveness of the changes.
Here’s the bottom line if you are only good at the first step, identifying or defining the problem, you have not yet advanced to becoming solution oriented. You are still in the problem oriented stage. Never worry! You are not alone. Many of us find ourselves stuck in the first step as a problem identifier until we understand the steps or stages of problem solving. As we become more consistent in problem solving versus problem identifying, we become more well-rounded individuals and more of an asset to the organization.