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A Philosophy of Practical Problem-Solving

Problems will arise. This is the inevitability of business, and we needn’t question it. Question only the nature of their appearance. Such is the sage advice of Keith Mathis who, in a post for PM Hut, counsels proactive problem-solving for the prevention of corporate loss and setback.

Watch for Falling Trees

If a problem happens in a company, and no one notices, does it inflict harm? Perhaps the company’s employees are unscathed by something that affects the customer. Perhaps the customer is slighted by a problem to which internal employees are completely numb. Either way, successful risk management entails such practical actions as:

  • Defining the problem
  • Gathering information
  • Seeking expert advice

It’s impossible to prevent that which one cannot see. In this regard, beginnings are important. Gathering detail in advance helps one define the problem. It’s no use watching for falling trees in a fog. Therefore, seek clarity by expanding the problem to include outside information. Specify what is happening and to whom. Where is the problem occurring? When is it occurring? Designate a severity level. Next, test for signals of risk. In other words, once you’ve cleared the forest of mist and identified potential falling trees, nudge the risky trees to see if they are indeed going to fall.

Having tested the potential risks, one can now go about compiling useful information in the form of a comprehensive report. That report might include decisions made regarding the risk. (E.g. – tree A5 was nudged, moved a bit; John decided to temporarily prop the tree.)

The next step is to seek advice from those around you. We all have our own unique blind spots, but as a group the problem is more fully illuminated. Think in terms of organizational levels. On the ground, the tree looks sturdy, but what about from a higher vantage point (excuse the excessive tree analogy)? Management will often miss what ground-zero employees see, and vice versa. Once you have mastered the art of problem-solving, only then will you successfully anticipate risk.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master’s degree in communications at Penn State University.

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