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The Common Sense Approach to Team Problem Solving

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  • 0:03 Background on Problem Solving
  • 0:36 Step 1: Define the Problem
  • 1:55 Step 2: Identify Solutions
  • 3:15 Step 3: Resolve the Problem
  • 4:33 Step 4: Examine the Results
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alice Broaddus

Alice has taught basic computer usage and coomputer hardware at National College and has a Masters degree in Technology management.

A successful team works together to achieve a common goal. During this process, teams need to resolve problems together. This lesson will address the common sense approach to team problem solving.

Background on Problem Solving

Most people deal with problems every day, and every person has their own method for resolving the issues they encounter. When people work together as a team, there will be several methods introduced to solve problems - each person with their own method. This can lead to confusion and even increase the number of problems. There should be a way to get everyone on the team to approach the problems encountered using the same common process.

Successful teams understand the need for a strategy for attacking the problems they face. They know the process and accept the steps taken to reach a resolution. Let's take a closer look at these steps.

Step 1: Define the Problem

As team members recognize a problem, it must be established as a mutual problem for everyone involved. If all team members have different understandings of the problem, a common strategy will not be effective. This is why the team must thoroughly define and understand the problem before any solution can be decided upon. If members of the team see the problem differently, there may not be an agreement on the option chosen.

Let's say an accounting management team wants to determine why it is taking seven days to close the month-end books when it should only be taking three days. Some in the management team may say the issue is due to a communication problem. If they look closer and ask five questions of 'why,' they might find more to it. The five questions could be something like: 1) Why is it taking seven days? 2) Why is there a problem? 3) Why is there a breakdown in communication? 4) Why are people in the accounting department not talking to each other? And, 5) How does this impact the closing of the books?

Instead of just saying it is a problem with communication, the team can determine the root cause, or the original cause, of the problem. They discover that employees in each branch of the accounting department are only emailing each other when their portions of the book closing are complete, instead of notifying management and making the movement from branch to branch within the department a priority.

Ste 2: Identify Solutions

In our example of the accounting department, once those involved have evaluated the problem and discovered the root cause of it, they will need to have a team brainstorming session, or a meeting in which all possible ideas are pitched, to come up with all the possible solutions. Using the information gathered effectively and breaking it down into smaller sections will allow the team to clearly see the cause of the problem and work together to discover every solution possible. During the brainstorming session, all ideas are noted - even if they seem far-fetched.

Each idea is then analyzed to identify the steps necessary to implement the solution. Within the team, there may be some disagreement in both the actual problem and the solutions. The team needs to hear and understand each concern. Between the breakdown of the problem and of the solutions, the team should be able to come to a consensus. The solution breakdown in our earlier accounting example could be: 1) Establish a point-of-contact person (or POC) that all communication must go through. Or, 2) Another mode of communication between the accounting department personnel could be set up. And so on.

Most often, the disagreements between the team regarding the solutions are due to additional responsibility being put on an individual. As a team, that additional responsibility should be evaluated to determine if it's being correctly placed.

Step 3: Resolve the Problem

Once a team consensus has been reached on the solution, the team must examine the steps necessary to implement the solution. During the brainstorming session about possible solutions, steps were noted on the breakdown. The solution is broken down by how to implement, determining resources to implement, and analyzing the results of the implementation. In our earlier example about the accounting department not working together to shorten the month-end closing dates, once the solution is determined, what does it take to implement?

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