For every business, regardless of the field it operates in, or the particulars of its day-to-day operations, it is inevitable that problems will arise on a fairly regular basis, and will need to be dealt with effectively, quickly, and elegantly, in order to keep things moving along smoothly.
In fact, for a business that is adept at dealing with potential issues that arise, in a sophisticated manner, those very problems can become opportunities which can be seized upon, or which can in any case allow for a variety of new insights which can prove invaluable to the ongoing success of the business down the line.
On the other hand, for a business which is bad at addressing the problems that arise, things are likely to go from bad to worse in a hurry, without much if any potential for turning things around effectively.
Here are just a few problem-solving tips and approaches that are likely to be relevant for any business.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it (but do focus on iterative improvements)
One of the best maxims for professionals of all stripes, and for entrepreneurs and business owners in particular, is the Pareto principle – also referred to as the 80/20 rule.
Essentially, this “rule” is a heuristic that aims to help maximise the use of time and resources, while minimising the amount of waste present in any endeavour.
Simply put, the principal argues that approximately 80% of the desired results that are likely to be achieved in any endeavour, will tend to come from approximately 20% of the actions taken. The remaining 80% of actions taken will result in only 20% of the results.
In other words, you should always focus on the handful of actions that are going to make the real difference, and should minimise as much of the excessive “busy work,” as possible.
When it comes to problem solving, this can be usefully translated into the basic principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, in other words, don’t spend a lot of your energy trying to carry out sweeping overhauls of features of your business which are operating well.
There is one caveat to this: that you should focus on small iterative improvements which don’t take up a lot of your time or effort on a daily basis, but which can lead to significant net improvements over time, without demanding a total and disruptive overhaul of your professional infrastructure in one go.
The Japanese concept of “kaizen” is based on this kind of iterative improvement, for example.
Take a pragmatic approach, and think first and foremost about what actions are likely to have a beneficial versus a negative effect
For all intents and purposes, there are a virtually unlimited number of things you could be doing at any given time in order to try and develop the potential of your business, or to resolve any hiccups that you see developing within it.
As a general rule, however – and especially with regards to problem solving – it’s always important to take a pragmatic approach first and foremost, rather than an idealistic and lofty one.
In other words, you need to focus on the most likely direct effects of a particular course of action, in order to judge whether they will help to move you past a particular roadblock smoothly and efficiently, or whether they risk making things worse in one sense or another.
Focus on those actions which help to resolve the issue as quickly and smoothly as possible.
While bold and creative brainstorming is certainly something that has its place, problem-solving has to be practical and results focused, primarily.
Be willing to turn to people with the right expertise for high quality problem-solving in specific areas
In today’s increasingly complex professional and social landscape, it is almost inevitable that your business will – sooner or later – experience a problem or setback which it is unprepared or unequipped to deal with in-house.
Instead of always trying to figure out the best “hack solution” you can, there comes a time when you need to be willing to turn to people who have the right expertise, in order to ensure high quality problem-solving in specific areas, so that you aren’t hamstrung by inefficiency or downstream consequences that come as a result of shoddy workmanship.
Truck repair, for example, is something that you should turn to trusted, capable, and skilled mechanics for. The general principle applies to all sorts of different areas in a professional context.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
There are some old bits of folk wisdom which give great advice on how to avoid problems in general, and which are highly relevant to professional situations in particular, as well.
One of these proverbs is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Another one of these is “measure twice, cut once.”
Essentially what both of these proverbs allude to is that adequate preparation and oversight upfront can avoid some pretty dramatic and negative downstream consequences, including a variety of different problems.
Businesses need to be dynamic, mobile, and to have a bias for action. But it is still important that you do your due diligence before embarking on any ambitious or potentially weighty course of action.
The best way of dealing with a problem is to avoid it altogether.
Look for the useful lessons embedded in every setback
Problems and setbacks can be fantastic learning experiences for a business, and can serve to strengthen it in a variety of different ways, going forward.
For this to happen, however, it is necessary to look for the useful lessons embedded in every setback, and to actively work to alter your approach going forward, so as to minimise the risk of such a problem occurring again.
Having regular group meetings and reviews following these kinds of setbacks can be essential in carrying these lessons forward effectively. But in either case, look for the useful lessons embedded in every setback.