3 Steps to Eliminate Problems (Not Just Solve Them)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Everybody’s got problems, right? And in the workplace, there’s no shortage of them. I talk to business leaders every day about what’s going wrong and how they’ve tried to make it right. First, there is no try – only do. And, second – solving problems is neither the most efficient nor the most effective course of action. That said, I guarantee that if you ask a room full of people if they are good problem solvers, hands will shoot up with pride. That’s because they don’t understand the difference between solving problems and eliminating them altogether.

You see, problems are like pests in your home. If you squash a bug in your kitchen, it is guaranteed that there are hundreds more behind the walls. You may have solved the problem for the moment, but you’ve hardly eliminated it, and pretty soon that problem will become even bigger and more difficult to handle. So, if your workplace is infested with problems, here are three steps to eliminate them and reclaim the time to grow your business:

Set aside the time you need.

There are roughly 500 working hours in any quarter. Set aside 2 percent of that time (10 hours) and get in a room with your team to talk about the problems your business is facing. Which ones occur over and over? What’s taking up the most time? It will quickly become clear which problems should be addressed in the near-term. The next step is to pick one to work on. You might think, “One problem at a time? That’s not very efficient.” But, you’re wrong. You’re going to need to stay focused, so starting with one will allow you to talk through your problem at a granular level and determine exactly what steps you need to take to make it go away forever. Once you’ve solved one problem, you can move on to the next.

Ask, “Why?”

If you’re dealing with the same problems in the workplace over and over, ask why it’s happening. It sounds like common sense, but a lot of folks put a Band-Aid on a situation, rather than delve into the “why,” because it’s a quicker “fix.” However, it’s not a fix at all and you’ll find yourself having the same conversation about the same problem a week later. That’s time you could be spending making new relationships, expanding your customer base and growing your business. For example, if you’re consistently hiring employees who underperform or aren’t a good fit for your company, it’s not enough to fire and rehire with the hope that you’ll get it right next time. You have to ask why the same thing keeps happening. Do you have a process in place to find A-players, or are you just winging it? If you take the time to design and stick to a process, you’ll be able to eliminate the problem and build a stronger team. You can then begin to be proactive in your business, rather than simply reacting to problems that come your way.

Ask the big question.

With any task (big or small) ask, “Is there a way we could automate or eliminate this?” If there’s a task or issue that’s repeatedly wasting valuable time in your business, maybe there’s a way you could never have to do the task again. Asking the big question can be scary, but it’s something that will lead you to innovation and improvement. People don’t usually think that way – usually out of fear – so the discussion could get uncomfortable. However, discussing it will break you out of your comfort zone and help you think big. And more often than not, thinking big will get you to a solution you may not have considered before.

So, take a step back and ask yourself how much time you’re wasting by “solving” the same problems over and over again. It’s time to get back to your company’s business and out of the business of solving problems. What problems can you eliminate today?