Conquering workplace challenges fuses strategy and art

Sometimes, it can seem that obstacles are as prevalent as opportunities. When you're good at solving problems, though, you have the power to navigate issues with relative ease. In fact, problem solving is more than a skill - it's a tool that you can use to fuel career growth and success. 

As an effective problem solver, you use innovative thinking, demonstrate leadership, and build resilience and confidence. Often, the people you work with come to trust that you're the person to go to when there's a challenge. This could be just the stepping stone you need to move into a leadership role

Of course, problems range in complexity depending on your industry. But by having a five-step problem-solving process in place, you can enhance both efficiency and effectiveness. In this article, we'll explore tips to help you master the skill, strategy, and art of problem solving.

Identify, analyze, resolve, execute, evaluate

What's the definition of problem solving? It's quite simple. You have to come up with solutions to challenges or issues. 

The first step to fixing any problem is recognizing that there is one. Then the trick is to engage with each step of the problem-solving process to incorporate analytical thinking, adaptability, and collaboration skills to build a framework for addressing challenges and driving positive outcomes. 

Step 1: Identify

Identifying the problem may be simple, or it could be a detailed cognitive process that breaks the issue into manageable components. Either way, what you do during the identify step of the problem-solving process sets the stage for the next steps in problem solving. 

Step 2: Analyze

Consider underlying factors and devise strategies. Here's where the art part of your problem-solving strategy becomes important. As you gather details about the problem, employ critical thinking to uncover the root causes and potential implications. 

Step 3: Resolve

Once you have a thorough understanding of the issue, it's time to get creative. Develop some reasonable solutions that are aligned with the capabilities of your team and the mission, vision, and values of your company. Your problem-solving method could involve any one of the following - or even a combination of several:

  • Encourage your team to learn new technologies

  • Reallocate some resources

  • Restructure organizational elements

  • Draft new operating procedures

  • Implement brainstorming sessions

  • Develop metrics 

Step 4: Execute

After you've outlined the solutions and decided which ones you think will resolve the problem, it's time to put them into place. The execution phase is the bridge between theory and practice. 

  • Translate the solutions into actionable steps that produce tangible results

  • Clearly communicate the actionable steps to the relevant stakeholders - your team, colleagues, or managers

  • Delegate tasks based on team member acumen

  • Empower those you delegate tasks to by fostering a sense of ownership

  • Track the progress of your solutions

  • Overcome challenges, including unforeseen obstacles and stakeholder resistance

Step 5: Evaluate

Just because you think you solved the problem doesn't mean you actually did. It's critical to double-check your work and make sure there are no hiccups. Here's a list of 10 evaluative questions you can work through, to ensure that your problem-solving solutions were impactful:

  • Did the solutions effectively address the root cause of the problem?

  • Do you see the desired results? 

  • What impact can you see on your team or the company?

  • Has there been a noticeable enhancement in efficiency, productivity, or overall performance?

  • Have any unintended consequences or new challenges arisen as a result of the implemented solution?

  • Can the solution be sustained in the long term, or is it a short-term fix?

  • Have stakeholders, such as team members or customers, reported positive experiences or feedback?

  • Have the predefined performance metrics and goals been achieved or exceeded?

  • Are there any new aspects of the problem that emerged after implementing the solution?

  • Which aspects of the solution would you retain and which would you modify?

When you reflect on the outcome of your problem solving strategies, you not only validate the effectiveness of your approach but you can also find insights for continuous improvement and refinement for future endeavors. 

Problem solving isn't just for leaders

Sometimes, it seems that only managers and senior executives can engage in effective workplace problem solving. That's simply not the case. It doesn't matter if you're a fresher who's just graduated college or someone with decades of experience, you can employ problem-solving techniques and become a master problem solver. 

You've likely heard of hard skills and soft skills; you may have even seen problem solving lumped in with other soft skills. There are three essential soft skills you'll need to be good at to solve workplace problems:

  1. Analytical thinking

  2. Adaptability

  3. Collaboration

Analytical thinking

Let's start with a foundational problem-solving skill. Analytical thinking is something you'll use in every step of your five-step problem-solving process, from identifying the problem to coming up with and executing solutions and measuring the success of those solutions. Being able to analyze trends, anticipate shifts, and make informed decisions along the problem-solving path, you'll be assured of success. 

A real-world example: Sally is a new graduate and has secured her first job. After a few days at work, she wants to start making a name for herself by identifying a dip in sales. She dissects the customer engagement data and finds there has been a shift in consumer preferences. She knows that a new targeted marketing strategy could re-engage customers and bring sales back up. 


Toss aside any notions that the plans you set into place to solve a problem are set in stone. They're not! Being able to make course corrections to change outcomes is at the heart of being adaptable. This soft skill becomes more and more important every day because of how quickly things change in business. Technology advances, economic fluctuations come into play, and unforeseen global events can wreak havoc on the best-laid problem-solving solutions. Think about how adaptable people had to be a few years ago when Covid shut the world down – there were tons of never-before-faced problems that ultimately got solved. 

A real-world example: John has been employed in the technology sector for a little over 20 years. He's achieved the coveted role of CTO and found himself overseeing a team that had to transition into remote work. Because he's kept up with emerging technologies and the latest trends, he sets up processes that allow his team to enjoy a seamless shift with minimal impact on productivity.


When you have a problem-solving project in front of you, you'll often have to get people involved to help you to execute the solutions you come up with. Effective communication, organizational synergy, and a harmonious fusion of experiences can lend fresh insights to problem solving. 

A real-world example: Marcus is involved in a complex project involving supply chain optimization. He works with geographically-dispersed stakeholders of all levels and has become an expert at pooling together specialized knowledge to create holistic solutions. 

How do great problem-solving skills affect your career goals?

Challenges in life and at work are inevitable; by aligning your problem-solving skills with your career goals, not only will you be able to overcome immediate challenges, but you'll also cultivate a powerful tool for your job search toolkit. When you're good at solving problems and can show that you're good at it through accomplishment statements on your resume, your career trajectory will likely be positively impacted. In fact, there are several success stories that prove the journey to excellence is marked by innovative problem solving. Here are just a few:

  • Elon Musk: Musk's SpaceX faced immense challenges in developing reusable rockets. His innovative, problem-solving approach led to breakthrough solutions, revolutionizing space travel.

  • Indra Nooyi: As the former CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi tackled the declining demand for sugary beverages by diversifying the product portfolio and focusing on healthier options, showcasing adaptability and strategic problem solving.

  • Nelson Mandela: Mandela's ability to collaborate across racial divides and negotiate solutions was instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa.

  • Grace Hopper: A computer science pioneer, Hopper's analytical thinking led to the development of the first compiler, revolutionizing programming.

An invaluable asset

As you progress in your career, your skill in resolving a problem will set you apart from the rest of the job-seeking crowd as an invaluable asset. Whether you're identifying opportunities for growth, addressing operational inefficiencies, or strategizing through crises, the ability to solve problems creatively and effectively can become one of the key drivers for the advancement of your career. Essentially, strong problem-solving skills empower you to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and carve a path of consistent achievement in your professional journey.

TopResume can help you to showcase exceptional problem-solving skills on your resume. Why not submit yours for a free resume review today, to make sure that you're giving this skill the prominence it deserves?

Recommended reading:

Related Articles: