The Solution to the Problem

Did you ever have someone always come to you with a problem? This could be a friend, a business associate, or a fellow employee. They present a problem or in a conversation say “the problem is” … but what is the missing piece? It is a suggested solution.

I recently spoke with a nurse that was set to meet with her supervisor to discuss issues that related to patient care. Prior to her meeting, our conversation started with – the problem is when they bring the trays up, the coffee spills on the sugar and it’s gross. It bothers me to give this to the patient. Not only are we providing patient care but because meals are cold, we are having to heat them one at a time. This is affecting our capability to provide quality care and impacting the patient’s ability to heal because of unsatisfactory nourishment. She had a laundry list of issues and as I listened, I asked, “What’s the solution?”

The nurse thought about my question and proceeded to offer ways that could improve a patient’s experience and provide solutions to her concerns. Before her meeting with the supervisor, she put a wet condiment packet from a food tray where coffee had spilled in a baggie took it with her to the meeting. The supervisor was unaware of many of her concerns, but what helped her cause was the fact that she provided an example of why it bothered her to serve a patient a try with a condiment that “looked gross” as well as offered solutions. The outcome…. some of her suggestions have been implemented.

An engineering colleague spoke of an entirely different situation where a junior engineer is choosing to not step up to the plate with solutions to work situations. After a number of years of working for him, the junior engineer still comes to him wanting answers to problems he is qualified to solve. The junior engineer has been asked to get his PE, but he says he doesn’t want that responsibility. The lack of drive and the ability to want to problem solve will eventually hurt his career. The senior engineer indicated the junior engineer has the right answer, but doesn’t want to offer the solution. He would rather allow someone else make that decision for him. Many senior engineers will be retiring soon and he told the young engineer that in the not-too-distant future, he would HAVE to make decisions because they wouldn’t be there to ask.

Problems and solutions in two different industries… but very different outcomes.

What steps should you take to become a problem solver?

  • Identify and define the problem. Break apart the situation and identify a root cause of the problem. Document how the process currently flows and identify how the problem is impacting your ability to effectively perform your job.
  • Look at various software tools, operational shifts, and changes in policy that would impact the situation.
  • Offer multiple alternatives that could be modified to determine a best outcome.
  • Evaluate alternatives. Include affected parties to garner feedback and buy in for the solution.
  • Sell your solution to leadership or if you are the business owner affected staff.
  • Implement and reevaluate proposed solutions allowing for feedback and/or modification.

At the end of the day are you going to be a problem solver or a person who doesn’t want to take the responsibility to improve customer service, operations and ultimately help a business be better? I challenge you to evaluate your conversations to see if you can shift your mindset to offer solutions to today’s problems.

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group. The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior-level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long-term basis. Core areas of service are business development strategies, website creation and management, social media management, marketing, strategic planning, and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business.

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