You are probably no stranger to the everyday challenges that come along with the responsibility of being a manager. You know how to handle a crisis, deal with conflict and find solutions to all the miscellaneous issues that arise.
But what about the big challenges, the out-of-the-ordinary problems that don’t have an obvious resolution? These situations are difficult, but they test your management style and give you the chance to demonstrate effective leadership skills. Resist the temptation to make a hasty decision you might regret; instead, take the time to work through the problem using critical thinking (along with a pen and paper). The result will be a well-researched and logical approach to problem-solving.
The Critical Thinking Process
Examine the problem.
To be able to find a solution, you need to understand the problem thoroughly. What is the core issue you are addressing in a single sentence? Come up with a definition and write it down. What do you know about the problem? What do you need to know to move forward? Be careful not to use assumptions, emotions or biases as facts; you are looking for objective data to aid your critical thinking.
Identify the variables.
In a complex problem, there are likely many different pieces to consider. Are you working with a specific timeline or deadline? Who are the other people involved? Is there a budget limitation? Write down the different variables at work in this problem. Which are set in stone, and which can be altered if necessary?
Explore possible solutions.
Now that you have a comprehensive overview of the problem, you can start to examine different plans to resolve it. Sketch out a draft of each one — Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. in detail. What are the action steps? Which variables would you alter? How does this address the core problem you outlined in the beginning? What are the potential advantages and drawbacks? Be analytical and realistic in this step of the critical thinking process, eliminating options as you go.
After you have outlined all your options, review them and select the one you feel is the best solution. Put your plan into action, using effective leadership skills and enlisting the help of others as necessary.
How do you use critical thinking skills to solve difficult problems at work?