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8 Steps to Solving the Toughest Problems

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8 Steps to Solving the Toughest Problems

iStock_000019027497MediumHave you ever run up against one of THOSE problems? You know, the ones that LINGER? They sit there and taunt you, no solution in sight? I have been helping people with technology for over 25 years, and a great part of my career has been spent solving technical problems. Network slow-downs, backups that fail, WAN communications problems, and sometimes even that software glitch are still part of what we work on daily at CTaccess.

As my position has moved from direct involvement in IT issues to running a business, problem solving skills have remained extremely important. We all face problems and when the tough ones just don’t go away, I have to remind myself to go back to one or all of these 8 Steps to Solving Tough Issues.

1. Map out the solution. Sometimes we nibble at a problem. Let’s try this and see what happens. Oh, that didn’t work, so let’s try this. Instead, take a step back and get a few key people together in front of a whiteboard. Talk about the problem out loud. Write the problem down. Then brainstorm on every possibly cause and solution. Write them all down. Create a prioritized list of what to do first and next and so on. This gives you a solution map to follow. If one step does not solve, you already know your next action. It really takes the stress out of solving the problem, and speeds the resolution because there is less time spent searching for the next action.

2. Abandon the desire to know what is causing the issue. Have you ever said, “We can only make one change at a time or we won’t know what caused the problem”. This is logical on the surface, but sometimes not the fastest way to solve. What is more important, to solve the problem, or know the cause. The answer is often, just to solve it. If that is the case, then we do steps 1-5 on our map and move on completing multiple steps at once.

3. Take action contrary to your personality. If you are an analytical person, consider taking an action to solve that does not necessarily make perfect sense to you. After all, if it made sense, you would have solved it already. If you are a spontaneous, gut-feel person, force yourself to take the grueling steps to solve one step at a time without missing anything. Step outside of your comfort zone to find that solution.

4. Ask yourself what it is you need to learn to solve the problem. If you are at the end of yourself trying to solve the problem, it is certain that you need an influx of information and learning to find the right answer. This may come in the form of getting someone else’s perspective, reading a book, studying the technical manual, listening to a webinar, or any means of changing the way you think by learning.

5. Consider the worst case. What happens if you ignore this problem? How important is it really? Is it a REAL problem or a distraction? Will it just go away over time? Some problems fall in this category, and sometime one option is to ignore it.

6. Look for a work around. We all want things to go the way they should. Our sense of right-ness makes us want to see things work according to our expectation. For instance, we should not have to reboot that server every two weeks to keep it from slowing down. However, it may not be worth the time and effort to figure out the problem. Instead, it might just make sense to schedule an automated reboot every two weeks in the middle of the night.

7. Delegate. Is there someone else who can solve this problem better than I can? Can I hire someone to take care of it? I am not good at accounting, so the solution is to hire someone else to do it. Simple, but we often overlook this in our “personal mission” to conquer the problem.

8. Change your perspective. Sometimes it is our intense focus on solving the problem that blocks the solution. I can’t tell you how many times as a technical engineer just taking a break for lunch and coming back to look at the problem later brings a solution to light. Do something to shift your perspective. Do something you enjoy or do well. Look to God for help. Listen to some music that helps you relax. It is amazing what a refreshed mind can see more clearly!

Solving problems is a part of life. We all do it every day. Often we are the roadblock and taking the right action to change how we think about something or getting outside input is the key. What do you do to solve that tough issue?

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