What’s Your Problem? And, 7 Steps to Fixing It!

career pm problem solving project management Jul 25, 2022
What’s Your Problem? And, 7 Steps to Fixing It!

What’s your problem? Every day is filled with so many obstacles, where do you even start to answer that question as a project manager?  There’s not enough time, resources, nor money to finish this project. Fix it. The client changed scope, again. Fix it. Delivery is running late but we still need the project out the door. Fix it.  

Maybe the better question to answer is, “What’s NOT your problem?”  

Since problem-solving is such a big part of a Project Manager’s job, is there a consistent process to follow that will make problems disappear when you walk in the room? Of course there is! Consider the following 7 steps: 

Step 1: Define the Problem  
Look the problem squarely in the eye and determine what it is. How can you make sure you have a good grasp of the issue you are dealing with? Understand it deeply enough that you can clearly explain it to your boss, project sponsor, or executives in your organization. 

Step 2: Analyze the Problem 
Walk all around the problem so you know what you are dealing with. How big is it? Start with small, medium, or large and dial it in from there. What is the impact of this problem and how many people, processes, or other dependencies will be impacted? A good method to get to the root cause is the 5 Whys. Keep asking “Why?” until you get to what started everything. 

Step 3: Develop Possible Solutions  
Now that you know what the problem is, its impact and root cause, throw out as many solutions as possible. No idea is a bad idea at this point. The final and best answer may be a combination of two or three different ideas that are presented, so keep them flowing. 

Step 4: Evaluate the Options 
Evaluate which out of the list of potential options will be best. You’ll need to have predetermined criteria to measure options against, but a good place to start is with what’s most important. Is it saving money, making a customer happy, minimizing disruption, etc.? Zero in on what you want to accomplish, and this will help you determine the most effective and suitable solution to the problem. 

Step 5: Select the Best Option 
This is where you pull the trigger and commit to an option. This takes guts, because saying Yes to one option is saying No to all the other possible options. There’s no second-guessing at this point, as everyone needs to pull together to execute on the chosen option. 

Step 6: Implement the Solution 
It’s now time to get to work on making the problem go away. Treat this as a mini-project with work plans, who is responsible for what, and when activities will be complete. Also, keep stakeholders and executives very informed, as they are going to want to know what you and your team are doing to get things under control. 

Step 7: Evaluate the Results 
Did it work? Was the problem evaluated correctly, the proper option chosen to solve the problem, and most importantly, did the problem go away? If the problem is still there, repeat Steps 1 through 6 until it is gone. 

This is a proven 7-step process for solving problems that arise on your projects. Share this approach with your project team, colleagues, and managers and you’ll be thrilled with how quickly you can move from “Uh-oh! What do we do now?” to “Wow! That worked great!