Business management

Problem-Solving Strategies Every Project Manager Should Know

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According to this KPMG survey, a whopping 70% of businesses suffered a setback leading to project failure in the last 12 months, and 50% of project managers reported that their projects failed to achieve their targets.

One thing emerges from this stat: out of the many hats project managers are expected to wear, the ability to problem-solve ranks high to ensure project success.

But taking projects from idea to completion is no easy task. From foreseeing potential roadblocks to finding solutions to mitigate them, project managers must have the right problem-solving know-how to reach successful outcomes.

This blog is here to help.

What is problem-solving?

In simple terms, problem-solving involves noticing the parts of a project that need work and fixing them.

It involves using logical and creative thinking to explore potential solutions, evaluate their feasibility and effectiveness, and make informed decisions to help you address the problem at hand.

From miscommunications to scope creep, teamwork alignment issues, ever-shifting project objectives, or even struggles like finding the right software, these issues could sabotage your journey to execution.  

But depending on how you see it, these roadblocks are not just inconvenient bumps on the roads or minor setbacks.  

Done right, problems can also be harnessed for new opportunities, with each setback leading to new possibilities that ride on the back of a strategy that’s now battle-tested and fail-proof.

Ultimately, problem-solving is vital for project managers looking to navigate project complexities, overcome obstacles, make effective decisions, manage risks, and achieve successful project outcomes.  

With this, project managers can lead their teams, engage stakeholders and get approval, and adapt to change while keeping projects on track and within the defined parameters.

Problem-solving techniques

These tricks provide a structured approach to understanding, analysing, and resolving problems that arise during project execution.  

Here's how you can walk the smooth road from problem diagnosis to analysis and resolution:

Somo Problem-solving techniques

1. Define the problem

The first stage of problem-solving is knowing the problem you’re working on. Here, you'll need to understand the problem and its impact on your project.  

This holistic view helps you be clear on what specific goal needs to be achieved.  

2. Determine the causes

Let’s say you’re two steps from where you want to be. The problem is the obstacle keeping you from closing those steps.  

Usually, organisations use tools like brainstorming, SWOT analysis, Pareto Analysis, or a fishbone (Ishikawa) diagram to determine the root cause of a problem.  

Identifying the cause is crucial because it helps you focus on the target. This way, you’re fixing the root of the sickness itself — not just the symptoms.

3. Generate ideas

After describing the issue and identifying its root causes, the next step is to design potential solutions.  

You can develop solutions by brainstorming with the team and stakeholders and maintaining a solid understanding of best practices.  

Mind mapping and data analysis are also techniques for tackling problems. The best approach will achieve the desired result with minimal negative impacts.  

You can use trade-off analysis to compare solutions and determine the best approach for your issue.

4. Select the best solution

To come up with the best solution, a problem-solving tool can help.

For instance, if the issue is a customer complaint relating to delay, you can gain an overview of the full customer context through a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to speedrun the solution.

A CRM can be a true side-sick for project managers to gain the project, business, and customer insights necessary to target specific concerns and free up bottlenecks.  

We’ll cover more on which problem-solving tools to look out for below.

5. Take action

It's time to act after choosing which option you'll use. Making a strategy plan and treating it as a mini-project is a smart idea if the answer calls for multiple steps or the participation of other people.

Proactively tackle the problem head-on, making informed decisions and taking the necessary steps to address the issue promptly.

And don't forget to regularly monitor the progress of the actions taken. Make adjustments as needed and maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders so your progress aligns with the desired outcome.

What tools can project managers use for effective problem-solving?

Without specialised equipment and software, overseeing high-impact projects can be more tasking, never mind risky.

The leading benefit identified in Capterra's market research report is the usage of project management tools, which enables organisations to achieve more precise project timeline estimations.  

The direct result is a reduction in unnecessary expenditures. But It gets better: the best tools can facilitate teamwork, time management, chart creation, note-taking, and problem-solving. We’ve briefly touched on some of the more popular ones:  

What tools can project managers use for effective problem-solving?

Project management software like efficy, Asana, Trello, or Jira helps organise tasks, track progress, and collaborate with team members.  

Communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace facilitate real-time communication and collaboration among team members.  

Data analysis and visualisation tools like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Tableau can help you analyse project data and identify patterns or trends to help you make data-driven decisions when problem-solving.

Documentation and knowledge management tools like Confluence, SharePoint, or Google Drive provide a centralised repository for storing and accessing project documentation, reports, and knowledge.  

Task automation tools like Zapier or IFTTT allow you to automate repetitive tasks, notifications, or data transfers between different apps.

The CRM  

Think of CRMs as the Swiss Army Knife in the arsenal of any problem-solving PM.  

Why? A CRM software centralises the tools and data insights necessary to help you successfully handle customer relations and streamline project workflows for more efficient growth.

It’s a catch-all for your project management requirements, which makes it an absolute must-have in your operations:  

With a CRM, project managers can:  

Automate repetitive tasks to free up time for more critical problem-solving activities and ensure consistent problem-solving approaches.  

Gain a centralised repository for storing project-related information with documentation and knowledge management, including customer details, communication history, and project documentation.  

Drive collaboration with seamless integrations for your favourite communication tools and help users stay aligned around a single source of truth with updates, linking, and notifications.  

Streamline task and activity management with features to help create, assign, and track tasks. This way, steps are taken, deadlines are met, and progress is monitored throughout the problem-solving process.

Maximise your resources; efficy CRM can help you identify team members available for a given task. If you have limited staff, you can allocate work efficiently, monitor your budget, and, if need be, cut out certain expensive low-performing campaigns.

Get key insights with game-changing data analysis features like drag-and-drop dashboards, charts, and reports within the CRM, allowing project managers to fuel project performance, identify bottlenecks, track issue resolution progress, and make informed decisions.  

Go from erratic to efficient with efficy

A project manager’s motto is to be prepared: ever-ready to solve new & recurring problems.  

In order to steer clear of project management pitfalls, you must embrace the precision of proper planning, problem-solving know-how, and the right project management tools.  

Most of all, you must be ready to base your decisions on cold, hard data rather than guesswork.  

CRM project management software, like efficy’s, will help you nip issues in the bud as they arise, putting you on the fast track to project success & client satisfaction.  

Want to see it in action? Head over to efficy to see how we fit with your project requirements.  


Learn more about:

Your Comprehensive Guide to Project Management [2024]

Demystifying Project Management Methodologies