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Achieve More Efficiently - Solve Your Problems!

We all like to be known for our achievements.   It is great to hear someone say “that person gets things done!”.   It has an empowering effect, increasing our self-confidence and spurring us on to achieve more or greater things.   But we also need to be mindful of priorities and efficiency.   Simply working harder, longer or faster isn’t necessarily better.   We must learn to be more effective when it comes to getting things done.   Two key tools for getting things done are: 
  • Problem solving – assessing past events to resolve issues, difficulties or performance 
  • Decision making – moving an issue forward by deciding on a plan of attack  
If we improve our ability to solve problems and make decisions, we will achieve more.   If we improve our skills in these areas using systematic tools, we will achieve greatness more effectively.   It is the systemised tools that help us work smarter – rather than harder.   

What happens when you confront an issue or decision that you can’t resolve immediately?   You usually delay action until you can do something.   Often fear of failure, dealing with an unknown experience or being outside our comfort zone requires a little extra effort and persuasion.   Knowing that techniques and systems exist that are successful in facilitating problem solving and decision making helps give us the self confidence to confront the fears and move on.  

Below are some easy techniques that can help us improve our own productivity.

Problem Solving

Most problems are solved based on our experience, knowledge and “gut feel”.   It gives us an adrenalin rush when we can solve something.   Try the following steps next time you have a broad issue you need to resolve to achieve an outcome.

1.        Specify the current situation – in words, preferably written down.

Ask questions like
  • What is my real problem that I want to move forward?
  • What is it that I need to change?
  • What do I want to improve or fix?
2.        Identify the issues that impact on the current situation

3.        Classify the issues into causes and effects

4.        Prioritise the issues.
  • Which issues are high priority in terms of impact, urgency and trends (getting worse or better?).  
  • Using the 80:20 rule, target the high priority causes to help solve and prevent the problem re-occuring and the high priority effects that are causing real pain that needs to be resolved.
5.        Action Plan:

Now get the actions down in a list.   Identify what you are going to do to resolve each issue, who is responsible for getting it done and when is it going to be actioned by. 

Decision Making 

This is a skill that often is taken for granted – and often based on experience.   Hence senior management positions – where business decisions are often made – are often reserved for people with seniority.   Decisions move issues forward.   A problem or issue has been identified, and a choice must be made on future actions.   An effective process for making this decision can help take the emotion away from the process and ensure the options are considered based on specific criteria.   A useful decision making model is shown below:
  1. What is the decision you are trying to make or what objective do you need to achieve?
  2. What criteria are required to make the decision?   Most importantly, which criteria are ABSOLUTE MUSTS and which are wants or “nice to haves”?
  3. Which options can you consider?   Often this requires a breakdown of the situation before you really know what alternatives you have.   The previous problem solving approach is very useful in assessing all the impacts of a situation before deciding what options or alternatives you have to compare.  
  4. Now assess the risks of the alternative first.   What could go wrong, how serious is the outcome and what likelihood is there that it will occur.  
As you use these techniques for the first few times, try writing the questions and answers down on paper.   The discipline of converting it from your mind to paper helps clarify the thoughts and makes it easier to move on to the next step.   It also reduces the emotion and tendancy to “jump” to a solution before you have had a chance to consider all aspects.   Making a process visible is part of the extra discipline of achievement.  

Over time, these techniques become part of your own “automatic weaponry”, and there is less need for writing things down on paper.   Although paper does become a useful tool when involving others in the process.   It becomes a focusing medium that facilitates discussion rather than let certain individuals control the process.   Next time you have an issue you are unsure of, try these techniques out.  
What Next? 

Now you have acquired a new tool that helps you systematically achieve more.   That is real productivity improvement because you have increased your skills, produced greater results and increased your own self-confidence.  

If you would like to learn more about these techniques, Maxell Consulting can provide you with more information.   We work with executives and managers to identify new opportunities to improve the business and use systemised processes to lock in the benefits of the solutions.

Maxell Consulting has helped many businesses identify the value in their business and empower the owners to develop plans to crystallise that value.  

We offer a free assessment of your situation and review what potential value exists within your business.