Problem Solving 101

Problems are one of the few things we seem to never be in short supply of. Problem solvers, however, are more difficult to come by, and the reason for this is simple – most people don’t solve the real problem. They’ll come up with a short term patch and a clever spiel about how it’s the ultimate solution. Everyone then believes their hype and that’s that.

Two weeks, a month, or a year later the problem is back and twice as bad as it was before.

Dig Deep

To keep a problem fixed, you have to make sure that you’ve fixed it. The only way to do this is to dig deep and determine what the root cause of the problem is. The manifesting problem should only ever be an event that triggers you to look for a root cause.

Fix this root cause and the problems it causes will stop.

Step Back

It may seem like a no-brainer, but in practice, it’s more difficult than you’d expect. It’s very easy to get caught up in the current problem, which will blur the lines between the manifesting problem and the root cause. You’re likely to only half fix both issues.

So take a step back and try to remove yourself from the problem so you can properly evaluate. Brainstorm with other people if you need extra insight into what might be causing this problem. Sometimes it’s a simple thing that’s just been overlooked, and other times it’s a complex series of events.

Make Space

If you’re going to take a step back so you can dig deep, you’re going to need to make some space to do so. The biggest problems seem to come when you’ve already got your back up against the wall. The project is due in two days, there are already 50 outstanding issues and now this problem.

In situations like this, the best way to make some space is to quickly patch the problem and make a commitment to come back after the project to dig for the root cause and fix it.

Get the input from other people that are involved with the situation. Their insight can be invaluable. Sometimes it’s the new Jr. Dveloper that notices the root cause just because he’s new and it obvious to him.

Give it a try. It’ll help problems stay away. It’ll improve the efficiency of your company, and in the end, you might make some more money as a result.

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