Solve a Business Problem, Get a Strategy for Free!

October 11, 2011

DIY Workshop, Strategy Concepts

If you are like many business leaders, you are battling the demons of nagging questions that don’t have clear answers.  Everyday you see more questions to be answered or problems to be solved.   You may think it’s impossible to sort, prioritize and then solve all of these problems and answer these questions.  Or you just don’t know where to start.

Consider the action plan below.  If you can turn these few steps into a habit, you’ll never have an unsolvable problem.  You will have a tried-and-true process that is known to always deliver a next step.  With this process, there is always a result; always an action to keep business moving.

The Link Between Problem and Strategy

In researching processes for building strategy, what I found is that our system for building a business strategy is actually a problem-solving process.  Of course, you are grappling with many different problems, all related to each other in many ways, which means you have complex situations.  But that doesn’t change the basic need to solve some problems in order to take your business forward.  Our solutions will be actions, and those actions, focused and prioritized, are the foundation of our business strategy.  Simply, when you have solutions to the top business problems or answers to the most critical business questions, those solutions and answers will come in actions for your business to take.  And, wa la, you have a business strategy.

Here are five basic steps for solving your business problems, adapted from some well-known problem solving systems.

Simplified Structured Problem-solving

Problem Solving for Business

Define and describe the problem

Identify key business questions and define the situation for each

Determine and Identify and Verify Root Causes and escape points/topic

Research potential answers to key questions and prioritize most critical areas to focus → identify what must be accomplished by your business identify critical success factors

Choose and verify Permanent Corrective Actions (PCAs)

Define key strategies and the actions that will achieve the critical success factors

Implement and validate PCAs

Execute the action plan and monitor the impact vs. expectations

Prevent Recurrence

Adjust as needed

One Great First Step

Today, start with this key first step.  Identify one key business question or problem you have.  One that is stressing you out.

Take one sheet of paper (you know I love simple).  Write out the question or problem on the top.  Then below it describe the situation surrounding this problem.  Consider key categories like customers, business finance, suppliers, staff, and local government.  Add others as you need to.

To improve your assessment, consider asking colleagues, mentors, staff to provide their insights also.

When you are finished, you should have your most complete picture of this nagging problem to date.

For reference, the “Simplified Structured Problem-solving Process” above is adapted from “8 Disciplines” and Six Sigma-type methods.  I put in the Wikipedia references, if you are interested.

Post comments below about how you applied this first problem-solving step.


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