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problem Solving

I have 60 seconds, can I think of a solution, explain and provide something workable, or do I leave the client hanging for 2 days?

This is still not my Technical Frustration blog, no this week I’m going to discuss Problem Solving. It is an excellent buzzword, that we are always told to include on our CV or mention in job interviews, but what does it mean?

 

Various sources across the internet defines it as ‘the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues’. My issue with that specific definition is that it nullifies the power of what our intentions are, when we say ‘I’m a Problem Solver’, because our lives are full of complex problems that we would not get through without being able to problem solve. Our intentions are obviously very different, when we say it we want to convey a unique thought pattern, that we can get from A to Z of a problem, often by going through Ω and missing out B to Y, to provide the solution in our specific field. We want to stand out, which is ironic, because we all use the same words, and adding ‘Creative’ to the start of it does not change the overall definition.

I have built a career on being a Problem Solver, but as shown above, something more is needed to make that meaningful, some parameters to show where I stand in my unique box. Important note here, we all sit in our own unique boxes, and the importance is identifying the box, not to think we are different or special. So, what are my parameters, first is the area that I am focused on, I cannot build a house, or create the equations required for an orbit insertion of Mars, but when it comes to software and processes, I visualise them and think about them in a way most others do not.

However, that is not enough, my intention when I say ‘I’m a problem solver’ is about the situation, time constraints, resource constraints, no one to rely on, software and technology is as provided no chance to change, this is where I stand out.

Message appears on my phone at 15:07, a client has a problem, I’m about to walk out the door I need to leave at 15:10 to pick up my children from school. Option, send my Wife to the school, no we both work from home, we take it in turns as to reduce the disruption on each other. Option, ignore the message, pick it up later, the text is not providing details, but the tone is urgent. Urgent means so much to many, what I consider trivial, it can wait, may be providing someone else with stress.

15:08, phone the client, my intention is to get the information, identify the elements of the problem, where is the stress, which element?

15:08, client has got a new tablet, wanting to use it to send business E-mails on the move, frustrated that the E-mail signature, their business brand is not on the E-mails sent from the tablet, as they are when sent from their desktop. There were other issues, but I quickly departmentalised those as something the client was happy to have solved later.

15:09, E-mail signature, on a mobile device, yes there are solutions, but we are going to need to get into details about which E-mail app is being used, we are going to need to get into detail about transferring information from the desktop and then there could be formatting issues. This all passes through my mind in under a second, the solution as written in the manual is not the ‘problem solving’ solution. Telling the client to find a specific setting and transfer information and leaving them with vague instructions is not what I mean by problem solving, it creates a different problem for the client, defers it from me and potentially adds to their frustrations and I am here to remove frustrations, not add to them.

Fortunately, this is not my first situation with the walls of time closing around me. This exact query was unique, but when I worked in an office environment, I was constantly at peoples desks, solving a query, often I would guide them to the solution, but sometimes I was in their seat, with them at my shoulder waiting for me to show them how the magic trick was done. How to add a mailbox, easy follow the instructions, Word document does not print as it looks on screen, save as PDF, and print that, page number needs to start from one from the second page, easy use section and sort from the heading sections, needing a dynamic dropdown in Excel where the selection changes based on the previous selection, okay now we have something interesting, you need to create a table, with the various options, we can use hlookup to pull the right list together.

With many at the desk problems, from presentations to database or file management, I would do it differently, the set-up, the methodology, that I would not reach these ‘stuck’ points and I occasionally where appropriate offer suggestions around better practices, but unless something is really broken these remain as recommendations, not instructions. This is because I understand that we all think and work differently, all that is happening is the person has reached the end of their knowledge and has done what everyone should learn to do, asked the person who can provide the next step. They do not want me to come in and try to re-educate them, taking them away from what is familiar and comfortable to them, they just want to understand that when they get to this point how can they proceed, if it is something they are going to do often, they may ask questions, or if it is a one off, it is a thanks for fixing and moving on. In all situations they want the problem solved, the frustration removed as fast as possible so they can get onto the next element, the next task. It means that I have a limited time to not only think about the perfect solution as written in the manual, but the solution that fits their need, a solution that fits into their technology scope and if I do it right a solution that they will remember and enhance their own abilities.

15:09, agree a meeting time later in the week to solve the less frustrating issues, let the client know that at that time we will provide a permanent solution to their E-mail signature issue. At this point, ideas are passing through my mind, faster than I can really get a hold of them, remote fixes, converting the signature into a single picture, no it would not provide an easy fix, as still no way to get the information across. Wait, linkage, what is the linkage between the devices, still no time for detail, but there is one chance, an opportunity. I ask the client if they are using the same E-mail address on the new tablet, they confirm, now we have an opportunity. Is the E-mail set up on the tablet already? It is, now the opportunity becomes a solution.

Where do solutions come from, Terry Pratchett mentions inspiration as ‘Particles of raw inspiration sleet through the universe all the time.’, and I seem to be just tuned to a specific frequency. Once I see the solution it is obvious, despite two seconds earlier a hundred ideas were flashing through my mind, now there is one and I know it is the right one for this specific client, because it feels right.

15:10, apologise that the call was short, but before I go, tell the client to create an E-mail on their desktop, an E-mail with all required elements of the signature and branding, save that E-mail to draft. Tell the client to give it a couple of minutes and that draft will appear in their draft folder on the tablet, when they want to send a business E-mail copy the draft and use, everything they need will be there. A simple solution maybe, but a problem solved, a frustration removed. It is not the final solution, the manual is not going to describe this, but is is a solution and problem solved within parameters given.

The client is happy, the client is confident that all other issues can wait a couple of days. I have the confidence to tell them to call me later if the short-term solution does not work as intended, confidence that, that call will not be required.

Money, none, no money passed through hands, none was expected. For one I offer a free hour to all new clients and this is a new client, I knew them for a full 3 minutes, and in that time I understood their problem, where their were on technology, split their issues into priorities, identified the source of frustration and provided a solution. Two, I want businesses to understand that although we are not in an office environment with an easy to call on expert, I am just a phone or zoom call away, and when you get to the end of your knowledge I am here, first hour as I mentioned earlier is free and packages are available where I can be on hand to provide that support as and when you need it. Support packages are charged at either a flat monthly rate, or per call depending on your needs, contact me now to learn more.

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