Master Problem-Solving with My Framework for Increased Efficiency

Problem–solving was eating up to 70% of my time

Problem-solving is a big part of what leaders do. I’ve walked in those shoes, spending all day putting out fires. At the end of these days, I often felt too drained to think strategically about moving the business forward.

Dealing with issues more than 70% of the time meant I was stuck in this area of urgent and not important tasks. But it also led to an important realization. I needed a better way to deal with the constant challenges that come up in business. To save my energy for the bigger picture – the strategic work that truly moves the needle – I had to create a go-to, reliable method to handle the day-to-day issues.

So, I decided to build a problem-solving framework. This isn’t just a quick, temporary fix but a well-planned tool to help me move faster. It is a step by step, actionable strategy I can use whenever a new problem arises. And the best part? I don’t have to waste all my brain power on solving issues and I can save some of my energy for strategic work.  

This is why I’m keen to share this framework with you. Let’s dig into it, shall we?

Why using a problem-solving framework makes a difference

Business problems can eat up a lot of time and money. As business leaders, every minute we spend fixing issues is a minute we do not use to grow our business. And the money used to solve these problems? It can quickly spiral out of control, leaving investment budgets depleted. 

But it’s not just about time and money. There’s another subtler cost to constant problem-solving. It’s the hit our motivation takes when we’re always in firefighting mode. Let’s face it, most leaders are not passionate about managing crises. They very much prefer to work on the vision, strategize for growth, and make that growth happen.

However, when a big chunk of our day goes into addressing issues, it leaves little room for this creative and strategic thinking. We start to feel like we’re running in place, dealing with the same types of problems over and over again, rather than making strides toward our business goals. Over time, this can lead to a frustrating plateau where we’re working in the business rather than working on it.

That’s why I found the problem-solving framework to be so useful. It’s a tool that can help deal with issues easily and quickly. 

How to win at problem-solving

Many leaders overlook the power of structures and workflows in their daily operations. They are always pushing hard, doing their best to work through the pile of everyday business problems. Their focus is on getting to the core tasks, the ones that really matter and can move the business forward. But without realizing, they often end up making their jobs harder than they need to be.

Every problem that comes up seems like a new challenge, a new puzzle to solve. This makes leaders feel like they have to come up with fresh solutions each time. But here’s the thing: they don’t! If we stop for a moment and really look at these problems, we start to see patterns. Similar issues pop up again and again, and we often respond to them in similar ways.

Instead of treating every problem as a one-off, look for patterns and repeat actions that can be turned into a workflow. This is how you come up with a process that works each and every time. And this is the end to wasting time and energy to come up with new solutions each time. 

Effective leaders tackle problem-solving through a systematic and process-oriented approach.

I will share my Problem-Solving Framework for increased efficiency. By following these simple steps, I get clarity on the problem, potential solutions, and their viability.

Step 1: Identify the problem

The first step in my Problem-Solving Framework is to identify the problem. But let me clarify – this isn’t about hunting for problems. It’s about separating real problems from mere concerns or complaints. It’s easy to think we see problems everywhere, but the reality is different.

How do I do it? I use a checklist to decide if something is truly a problem. Here’s what’s on it:

  • If not solved, will it impact my business?
  • Is this something I have control over?
  • Will solving this help me achieve my objectives?
  • Could ignoring this harm the business?
  • Will solving this make a big difference to my business?
  • Does this need to be solved urgently?
  • Does the cost of solving this make financial sense?

I aim for at least 80% ‘YES’ answers before I invest more time in solving the problem. Using this checklist, I immediately reduced the number of issues to be solved by around 50%. The rest just weren’t important enough to have me spend time on.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy at first to let go of those small issues. But I learned that focusing on the bigger problems generated in turn better results.

Step 2: Identify the ideal and acceptable outcome

The second step in my Problem-Solving Framework is understanding your goals. You need to know what ‘solved’ looks like. Here’s a simple way to break it down:

Define the Ideal Outcome

Start by imagining your best-case scenario. Picture a situation where:

  • You have all the resources you need.
  • No roadblocks are slowing you down.
  • Everything runs smoothly according to plan.

Ask yourself, what does success look like in this scenario?

Set the Acceptable Outcome

Now, let’s bring ourselves back to reality a bit. Think about the least you’d be willing to accept. Consider:

  • The bare minimum that needs to be met for the problem to be considered solved.
  • The lines you aren’t willing to cross – things you won’t accept.

Remember, the final outcome will usually fall somewhere between the ideal and acceptable levels. Having these boundaries in mind can help you aim high while providing a safety net if things don’t go as planned. It’s all about balancing ambition with reality.

Step 3: Find 3 possible solutions

The 3rd step in my Problem-Solving Framework is to find at least 3 possible solutions. I’m a firm believer in having backup plans, so here is how I do it: 

Brainstorm Solutions

List potential ways to tackle the problem. Remember, the goal is to generate as many options as possible that fall between your ideal and acceptable outcomes. More options means more chances to find the best solution.

Evaluate Pros and Cons

For each potential solution you’ve listed, assess the benefits and drawbacks. Consider questions like:

  • What are the positives of this approach?
  • What are the potential downsides?

Narrow Down Your Options

If you’ve brainstormed more than 3 possible solutions, it’s time to refine your list. Review the pros and cons you’ve identified. This process will help you eliminate less feasible options and focus on the most promising ones.

I find that having a few options to choose from really helps with decision-making. It’s much better than being stuck with just one option. It gives you the freedom to pick the best solution for your situation and the confidence that you’ve considered all the angles.

Step 4: Identify needed resources  

This step involves looking at your top 3 solutions and determining what resources they’ll require. Here’s how I break it down:

Determine Resources Needed – List all the things you’ll need for each of your top 3 solutions.  This could include people, equipment, time, money, and more.

Check Availability – Now, look at your list of resources. Do you already have what you need? If not, how easy would it be to get these resources?

Consider Costs – It’s important to consider how much sense it makes to spend these resources on solving the problem. Sometimes, even the minimum investment may not be justified.

Think About Returns – Throwing everything you’ve got at a problem can be tempting. But remember, it’s important to consider the return on investment. Is the benefit you’ll get from solving the problem worth the resources you’ll spend?

By asking yourself these questions you will make sure the resources are wisely spent on the biggest impact solution.

Step 5: Decision making

We’ve reached the 5th step in my Problem-Solving Framework: decision-making. By now, you should have all the information you need to solve the problem in a favorable way for the business.

Here’s how I advise you to go about it:

Review Your Shortlist – Look back at your top 3 solutions. You’ve done the hard work of listing them, identifying their pros and cons, and figuring out the needed resources.

Find the Balance – Your goal now is to find the solution that:

  • Comes closest to your ideal outcome, and
  • Requires the least amount of resources.

Weigh in Your Options – Remember, it will not always be a clear-cut decision. Sometimes, it’s about finding a balance. It could mean compromising a little on your ideal outcome to save resources. Or, it might involve investing more to get a result closer to your ideal.

The aim here is to make an informed decision that serves the best interest of the business. It might require some careful thought and deliberation, but with the groundwork you’ve already done, you’re well prepared for this.

Final Thoughts on Problem-Solving 

Effective problem-solving isn’t about tackling issues as they come. It’s about having a systematic approach that efficiently addresses the challenges that impact the business.

My Problem-Solving Framework guides leaders through each step: identifying the real problems, setting boundaries for outcomes, brainstorming solutions, evaluating resources, and finally making an informed decision. It’s about being strategic with your resources and, at the same time, staying focused on the business goals.

Problem-solving is an essential leadership skill. The objective of using the framework is to support effective business growth while minimizing resources.

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