Methods for Fluid Problem Solving and Decision Making in the Workplace

Whether a manager or employee, the workplace is an environment where problem solving and decision making is constant. Leaders in businesses must possess the ability to promote fluidity in these processes. In order to do so however, there are many considerations to acknowledge. Select Training and Management Consultancy L.L.C. proposes methods for leaders to apply to ensure fluid problem solving and decision making in the workplace.

Considering Employees

Primarily, Select suggests creating an environment that allows all employees to freely address problems and verbalise solutions from their perspectives. The ability for employees to effectively communicate can not only solve problems efficiently, but it can serve as a preventative measure for problems and promote better overall decision making. Ideally, the best decision should satisfy the interests of all employees. Therefore, with ongoing communication, it becomes much easier for leaders to identify all employees’ interests, and consider them to make ideal decisions.

Being Aware of Complexity

In very simple circumstances and challenges, a lot of deliberation is not typically required to solve problems or make decisions. Within businesses however, it is important for leaders to understand that in many cases, one problem will implicate several interrelated problems, just as one decision will implicate many interrelated decisions. We recommend that leaders are organised and thorough in their approach to identifying and solving problems, and making decisions. This will ensure that the full complexity of problems and decisions are understood and can yield the best possible outcomes. Select suggests leaders use either one or a variety of different diagrams to do this, so as to create a visual representation of the impact of problems and decisions. These diagrams include Affinity, Cause-and-Effect, Swim Lane, Plus/Minus/Implications Technique, and Systems Diagrams, as well as Flow Charts.

Implementing a Preventative Structure

A business decision may produce an outcome different from what a leader considers ideal. Therefore, when making a decision, it is essential that leaders create a structure that considers any contingencies. These contingencies should be discussed and solved before they occur, so as to prevent any undesirable outcomes in the future. Select recommends monitoring the implementation of any decisions and creating opportunities to evaluate them as a team, such as in a Virtual Training  Room (VTR). These virtual meetings along with effective communication will make outcomes and potential changes easy to identify.

SELECT Recommends the following steps to help implement the following methods.

1. Defining the problem

A clear definition of the problem is the first step, however this is often where people struggle. Rather than solving the problem, some leaders tend to react to what they think the problem is.

Questions to ask:

  • What data is there that makes you think there’s a problem?
  • Where is the problem?
  • How is this happening?
  • When is the problem happening?
  • Who is the problem impacting? Be careful here because we often start blaming people rather than taking a step back to have a closer look.
  • Why is it happening?

2. ‘Stepping back’ to consider the potential causes for the problem

  • Gather input from others who have also noticed the problem and could be affected by it.
  • Take data from one person at a time.
  • Document what people say to refer back to it at a later stage when it comes to deciding.
  • Identify if it is performance related.
  • Have a clear description of the cause of the problem in terms of what is happening; where, when, how, with whom and why.

3.Using available options to resolve the problem

A variety of techniques can be used and SELECT covers all of these in the Problem Solving and Decision Making, Critical Thinking and other online public courses. A few techniques are suggested such as Brainstorming for solutions to the problem, Systems Thinking for identifying the underlying cause of issues, as well as Systems Thinking and Mind maps for sharing ideas visually.

4.Deciding on the best course of action

Selecting the best approach is not an easy task for leaders; especially when there are many stakeholders.  SELECT recommends thinking about:

  • Which approach is the most likely to solve the problem for the long term?
  • Which approach is the most realistic to accomplish for now?
  • What resources are required and the cost?
  • How much time is available?
  • The risks involved in each suggestion.

5.Implementing the action plan

When it comes to implementing the decision, a clear idea of what the situation will look like when the problem is solved is needed.

6.Controlling and monitoring the plan

As a leader, the worst thing to do is to state what is wanted and walk away.  Progress must be monitored to make sure that leaders are moving towards their idea of what the situation will look like when the problem is solved.


How do leaders know when the problem has been solved or not? SELECT recommends that one of the most effective ways to return to normal operations is in organisation.  However, prevention is better than a cure.  So ask:

  • How can this type of problem be prevented from reoccurring in the future? What changes are needed to be made to policies and procedures, training, etc.
  • What lessons were learnt?
  • Are there success stories to be shared?


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