Make sure you’re solving the problem, not the symptom

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Project managers are supposed to be problem solvers. You know this. Part of the reason why you want to lead a project team is because you believe that you have strong problem solving skills.

And perhaps you do. But let's say you aren't seeing the results you expected. What could be the reason for this?

Writing for, contributor Mike Agliuolo argues that you may not be working on the right problem to begin with.

"All of us have solved a symptom without curing the real disease," Agliuolo writes. "When you fix a symptom, the root problem doesn't go away—it simply manifests as a new symptom."

He adds that the secret to identifying a problem is to look at it from multiple perspectives. Then, it is important to divide the problem into sub-components.

For example, suppose your team is working on strategies to improve profitability. The article points out that you'll want to break the issue down into different categories: one for revenue streams and one for costs. From there, it is easier to examine each category in greater detail to determine the source of any problems.

"As you break the problem down and identify all the possible issues, your odds of finding the true root cause skyrocket," Agliuolo writes. "This process also lends structure to your problem solving so you can be deliberate in your investigation and analysis."

At New Leaf Project Management, we offer over 200 hours of training for managers who want to improve their problem-solving and other PM skills. In addition, our online QPM games and white papers let you learn while you earn affordable PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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