Can you solve problems?

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Regardless of the size of business or the type of industry you work in, the ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts in today’s business world is an invaluable skill for any executive.  Although it may seem that people with these skills have an innate talent for knowing how to figure things out and how to negotiate relationships, the truth is that this is a learned skill.

The ability to solve problems can help a business mitigate or overcome a crisis and it can also help a business flourish, gaining an unfair advantage over the competition. Similarly, the ability to see things from everyone’s point of view and come up with an agreeable way to resolve differences in opinion can unify a business team.

If you’re interested in having an impact in your organization, then it’s a good idea to learn how to solve problems better and how to improve your people skills to mediate interpersonal conflicts. Although these can sometimes be related, let’s tackle these as separate skill sets.

How to Get Better at Solving Problems

While there are numerous solving problem techniques you can use in business, one that has stood the test of time is Six Sigma. Introduced as far back as 1986 by Bill Smith, an engineer working for Motorola, it still remains popular today. Jack Welch, who is famous for his huge influence on the growth of General Electric, considered it indispensable and it played an instrumental role in GE’s business strategies in 1995.

Today many top business training schools offer Six Sigma Certification, including self-paced online courses that can be taken over a period of 12 months. There are different levels of certification, each one building upon the skills learned at a previous level.

Often Lean and Six Sigma, two distinct problem-solving methodologies, are combined because they complement each other. While both work well individually, using both methodologies together will increase the speed with which problems are solved within an organization. They work in harmony because while Lean minimizes waste, Six Sigma solves problems. The benefits of this synergy include minimizing costs, maximizing profits, building a better team, and providing superior customer service.

Consequently, training and certification are available for Lean Six Sigma White Belt, Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and Lean. While a White Belt would be someone just starting out, a Black Belt would lead and coach projects.

Central to Six Sigma is the DMAIC (duh-may-ik) roadmap. This is a structured process to define, measure, analyze, improve, and control a business process so that it works well and continues to maintain the solution.

How to Resolve Conflicts in the Workplace 

It’s theoretically possible to use problem-solving techniques for resolving conflicts in the workplace, although problems solving techniques usually prove better with streamlining business processes than getting people on the same page.

So, when it comes to resolving interrelationship dynamics, it’s useful to use strategies deployed by mediators. Here is one particular 7-step mediation strategy:

First, find out what the issue is between two parties. What is the source of the disagreement? Identify the problem.

Second, get everyone’s point-of-view. Why do people believe the way they do? What are their reasons for their particular perspective?

Third, make a list of all possible options or solutions to the conflict.

Fourth, discuss with the parties involved the merits and demerits of each possible solution. Where do people agree? On what points do they agree?

Fifth, select the best options, or the best new options that emerge from the discussion. This option should work for everyone, allowing each perspective to be respected.

Sixth, it’s important to document the agreement to prevent fresh new interpretations of the conflict and its resolution.

Seventh, continue to work with the issue if it is not fully resolved, monitoring and evaluating how well the agreements work out.

By using these two skillsets in any type of administrative or executive role, you will be seen as the go-to person when there are business problems to be resolved or conflicts that need to be addressed. It does, however, take time and patience to get good at problem-solving and conflict resolution.