Friday, November 16, 2012

12 Tips to Problem Solve on Your Projects

Project managers face problems with every project. By building problem-solving into your project and problem collaboration into your project team you will ensure that problems are dealt with promptly. You will also establish a track record of being able to identify and deal with problems. This is a useful notch on your project manager’s belt.

Your goal is to identify problems early before they have an impact on the project. It is far easier to deal with a problem before it becomes a crisis. Here are some tips on problem solving methods for your project.

Build a Problem Solving Atmosphere
  • Encourage team members to bring their concerns forward. They may see a problem you do not. They may have solutions you have not thought of. 
  • Raise the issue of possible problems at each project meeting. 
  • Explain to team members how important it is to bring any problems forward and encourage them to offer solutions as well. 
  • Often project managers are known for not wanting to hear about problems. Team members may be reluctant to share their concerns. Examine yourself as a project manager and see if you have this flaw. If so, you should address it immediately.
Use Structured Problem-Solving
  • Define a structured step-by-step method for solving problems. The method should be clear to all team members. When a problem is suspected or arises you will already have the process in place for dealing with it. 
  • Root cause analysis of the problem is the first step in problem-solving. Not only does it expose the cause of the problem, but it may reveal other problems that were not exposed. 
  • Don’t rush into solutions. It is always tempting to propose a solution to a problem to get it taken care of. The first and most important step is not to find a solution. It is to identify the root cause of the problem so you can clearly understand it. 
  • Once you know the root cause of a problem you should discuss the impact on the project and explore ALL options. Examine ALL alternatives. The first option may not always be the best. Brainstorming sessions are a good method to find alternative answers to a problem. 
  • Select an approach to solve the problem and examine the impact the solution will have on the project. Once again do not jump into implementing a solution. If the solution makes the problem worse your problem just got bigger. 
  • Plan and execute the solution. Verify the results of the solution actually solve the problem and does not create additional problems or issues. 
  • If the solution involves changes to the project, update the project plan and notify any relevant stakeholders. 
  • The last step should be to deal with the root cause of the problem. If it is a team member coach them or examine their role on the team. If a process is flawed implement a process improvement plan. The goal is not to place blame. The goal is to improve your problem-solving skills and those of your team. 
When a project is delivered with a hidden problem it exposes the company to risks. Every effort should be taken to find problems early in the project stage. Using structured problem-solving techniques and developing an open approach to problems with team members will help expose them early.

Not only will this help keep the project on track, but it will help you deliver a project on time, on budget and problem free. Music to management’s ears!

Learn more about problem management from Gary Walkers book, IT Problem Management.

What tips do you have to problem solve on your projects?

1 comment:

  1. Great post Thomas, especially I like that you approach decision making process as a standalone topic that deserves focus. So often I see managers (and not only them :) ) are rushing into solutions without realizing that Good decisions take it’s time and steps. Missing crucial steps brings far from desired and “unexpected” results.


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