Is Your Business Solving the Right Problems?

MX Bites / December 9, 2021

How good is your business at problem-solving? Probably pretty good. What most of the businesses struggle with, it turns out, is not solving problems but figuring out what the actual problems are. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 85% of executives strongly agreed or agreed that their organizations were bad at problem diagnosis, and 87% strongly agreed or agreed that this misdiagnosis carried significant costs to business. 

The pattern is clear: fueled by tendencies for action, managers tend to switch quickly into solution mode without checking whether they really understand the problem, or if the problem even exists, and what the implications are on business in the long term.

At Hoick, we continuously look at data to uncover patterns that lead to actual problems that could impact business performance. So, we thought of connecting a few steps that we use to resolve some of our clients’ problems. Here is our list: 

1. What problem are we solving? 

The answer to this question should not be more than a long sentence. It will have a clear timeline of the resolution, involve individuals, and organizations. Example: “How can Hoick increase profits from its subscription by 150% by end of the year?”. If you are struggling to summarize a problem in one short sentence you need to ask yourself if you are dealing with multiple or not. 

2. Who are the key decision-makers?

It’s important to separate stakeholders from decision-makers. For a particular problem, the list of stakeholders could be pretty big while decision-makers should be only a few individuals, and it should involve those that will have an active role in resolving the problem. Basically, identifying problem-solving team members. 

3. What are the criteria for success?

Setting criteria for success will help you to demonstrate whether you have actually changed anything and if you met your targets. Therefore, you should select criteria for success that you can actually measure. The best way may be setting up SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound criteria.  

4. What is the context and scope of the work? 

The type of question to ask here should be: why is the problem appearing now? What is the timescale to resolve the problem? Do you need to produce a report, dashboard, or presentation, and if there are historical issues surrounding the problem you are resolving? Defining scope will ensure that the problem is eliminated in the best possible way. You do not need problems to grow in nature but to be reduced. 

5. What are the expected outcomes? 

It is important to define what the final output required is in order to present a solution. As mentioned earlier this can take many forms, written reports, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheet models, or graphical dashboards. Whatever you choose, you need to make sure that you are clear about what it is and when the expected completion date is.

The next time you are faced with a problem,  it’s always best to deal with it head-on in a structured format rather than wait. Figuring out what the actual problem is should be your first step towards problem-solving and not the other way around.

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