Sticky Notes: Teaching Problem-Solving Skills

What kind of job aids does your organization have to help employees learn ready-made solutions for dealing with recurring problems?

Teaching Problem-Solving Skills

Imagine how much better most employees would solve regularly recurring problems if you were to prepare them in advance with ready made solutions so they don’t have to “problem solve” anew each time: If A happens, you do B. If C happens, you do D.

What kind of job aids does your organization have to help employees learn ready-made solutions for dealing with recurring problems?

If your organization already has job aids, such as checklists, then spread those tools and spread the word. Use those checklists as the centerpiece of training, coaching, and ongoing reinforcement.

If not, then help employees create job aids for recurring problems:

  • Take each problem, one by one, asking for each: Is there an established policy or procedure for this problem? What resources are available? How much discretion will the individual have to improvise? What is the best solution here?
  • Spell out a best practice for each problem, step by step.
  • Make that best practice a standard operating procedure.
  • Turn those standard operating procedures into simple job aids, such as checklists or automated menu-driven systems.

Employees who study those best practices and use those job aids will develop steadily growing repertoires of ready-made solutions. And by teaching employees to implement specific step-by-step solutions to recurring problems, you are teaching them what good problem solving looks like. Upon that foundation, they can build more advanced problem-solving skills.

Bruce Tulgan is a best-selling author and CEO of RainmakerThinking, the management research, consulting, and training firm he founded in 1993. All of his work is based on 27 years of intensive workplace interviews and has been featured in thousands of news stories around the world. His newest book, “The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done”( Harvard Business Review Press) is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major booksellers. Follow Tulgan on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his Website at: rainmakerthinking.com.