When You Come To A Fork In The Road

and sorry that I could not take them bothSo many times, I’m in the middle of a certain project or task and I come to a point where I have to make a decision. I’ve been asked to present some information on customer service at my company’s annual meeting, so I have a lot of information to wade through and several decisions to make on what I’ll present and how I’ll present it. It can be difficult, trying to sort through all the different choices, so I have a 7 step process to help me make decisions. If you’re managing an important project and problem solving isn’t your strong suit, check out how I work toward to head off potential difficulties when I’m in the planning stages. See if it will work for you. If it does, be sure and let me know.

1. Define the problem. Is it really a problem? And if it is, how much of a problem is it? Will it eventually settle down and go away? What are some potential consequences of action or inaction? Give it the five-five’s test:

  • Will it matter in 5 minutes?
  • Will it matter in 5 hours?
  • Will it matter in 5 days?
  • Will it matter in 5 weeks?
  • Will it matter in 5 years?

Sometimes problems are defined for you — your boss storms into your office and demands that you fix “X” or a customer calls to complain about how the store employees in St. Louis treated her mother. Those are cases where you can feel free to skip ahead to step 2.

2. Develop your data. Gather pertinent information and analyze the problem. You can’t solve a problem without first finding out as much as you can about it. Sometimes, the solution gets uncovered in the data gathering process.

Will lowering our price insure that we keep this customer? Are there other solutions I haven’t thought about? What happens if we wait 90 days to see if the market turns around? What if it doesn’t? What does this job applicant’s history tell me about her character and how she will handle problems? Should I choose the young doctor that has a great bedside manner, or the old experienced one that has been around the block several times? You cannot ask too many questions.

More questions means better data.

3. Dissect data to develop potential solutions. Make a list and prioritize which solutions would most likely resolve the situation. Think like a chess player and explore what happens if you make certain moves.

Ask “What if?” questions every time a problem pops up.

  • “What if” I do this? What will happen?
  • “What if” I don’t do this. What will happen?
  • “What if” I do this? What won’t happen?
  • “What if” I don’t do this? What won’t happen

Write out your potential solutions and how they solve the problem or how they meet the challenge at hand. Never limit yourself to just two solutions.

4. Decide on the best solution. Choose the solution at the top of your list.

5. Do what needs to be done. Trust your instincts and take action steps to implement your solution or choice. Always ask, “What’s the next step in this process?” Remember, doing nothing gets you nowhere.

6. Determine the effectiveness of your solution. Evaluate the results of your decision and ask if it produced the desired results. Make sure it has solved your problem.

If you hit pay dirt the first time, congratulations! But don’t let it go to your head…

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces people into thinking they can’t lose.” –Bill Gates

If you haven’t succeeded with your top solution, try the second most likely solution on your list … and don’t give up trying!

7. Dance your happy dance.
Celebrate when you solve your problems. It will subconsciously motivate you to solve more!

photo credit: chelseagirl

[tags]decisions, decisiveness, success, life, job, project, projects, question[/tags]

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