Monday, May 21, 2001

The Success Coach

Know the problem, shape the solution

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: It seems as though whenever I settle a customer issue, another one soon follows. I know that there are some things you cannot avoid or prevent, but is there any way to handle these situations better so that they become few and far between? — Henry.

        Answer: There are problem-solving principles that have proven effective year after year in our businesses and in our communities. Read on and adapt these suggestions from Dale Carnegie Training to your situation.

        • Know the problem. Be sure you're tackling the real problem. In sales situations, for example, actively listen to how your customers articulate their challenges, opportunities and goals. Together, you and your client have to define the problem fully and clearly.

        • Shape the solution. The best problem-solvers don't rush into a solution and seize the first (or obvious) solution that takes shape. Everybody who is close to the problem should be consulted — up and down and across the organization. Similarly, internal and external specialists can be extremely helpful in this process, particularly when you're dealing with a complex or costly problem.

        • Put it in motion. Even before the solution is rolled out, you should sell it to key players, such as your customer. The buy-in of as many people as possible gives the solution credibility and makes the deployment smoother.

        • Follow up. Depending on the problem you're tackling, there will be varying levels of follow-up. Obviously, some solutions will take much longer than others.

        But every implementation calls for a follow-up process that fits the specific circumstances and evaluates whether the solution is working or not. If it isn't, you'll have to tweak it or even junk it in favor of another alternative.

        If you've done the groundwork properly, engaged all the right people, and communicated the goals and benefits at the outset of implementation, it's likely that the solution will succeed and your problem will be solved.

        If you have any business-related questions or would like advice on other workplace issues, visit our Web site at or e-mail us at The writer is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training.


P&G said to be near Clairol deal
County woos small businesses for ballpark
Longtime grocers are returning downtown
ECKBERG: Diversity training pays off
Nonprofit-management leader to speak at NKU
- Know the problem, shape the solution
Promotions & new on the job
Tire tread problems force Ford to recall Explorers
Vivendi buys in $372 million deal
Morning Memo