Wouldn't it be nice if we could solve all of our workplace problems before they occur? Short of a crystal ball, this seems impossible. Modern business moves at an incredibly fast pace and the ability to react and adapt appropriately to new situations is crucial for success. However, the best modern business leaders make every effort to solve problems before they manifest.

Fortunately, there are steps we all can take to anticipate problems and prevent them, which makes us better and more effective employees. Here are seven tips that will help make you look like you have a crystal ball for your business, even though you obviously don't.

Effective Communication

Your team (and the rest of your organization) is going to benefit tremendously from transparent communication in several ways. Primarily, letting your employees and colleagues know what is happening behind the scenes helps them prepare for changes. A little bit of advance notice goes a long way when your enterprise launches a new initiative or rolls out new features and applications. When employees expect a change, they feel less pressure to react and have more time to prepare accordingly.

Ask for Feedback

Effective communication means more than simply giving ample warning before something happens or changes. This also applies to encouraging constructive feedback. Employees touch aspects of the organization that supervisors and managers may never see, so it's important to leverage their insights for the benefit of everyone. Engage with employees in a diplomatic way. Neutral ground and relaxed, honest conversation will help everyone involved make solid contributions to a discussion.

Create New Solutions

History often repeats itself, but in the business world, learning from past mistakes is crucial to success. It's important to remember past snags and missteps, as well as how they were solved. Sometimes, the answer to a current or potential problem will resemble that of a previous issue. Always keep tabs on the key players in any problem-solving capacity. Chances are good that these individuals will play important roles in similar issues in the future. Additionally, these are the people to turn to if you want to prevent problems from appearing in the first place.

Encourage Collaboration

Many organizations hold to traditional enterprise models. While this may work for some companies, many modern business leaders are opting for something different--something flatter. By tearing down the silos that typically divide employees and departments, every member of an organization can more easily see how their work affects others. This can help employees consider the consequences of decisions more carefully. Sometimes getting input from outside one's own department is an excellent method for uncovering possible future problems.

Consider Hypotheticals

One of the best ways to train to be more proactive with problem solving is to start thinking in hypotheticals. Try to imagine the possible outcomes of any particular decision, and think about potential snags that might ensue from it. Effective anticipation is going to rely on your ability to analyze what you know and apply it to what could happen. No one can accurately predict the future, but in the business world, things are a bit more predictable as long as you take the time to carefully assess known variables and apply past lessons.

Test Thoroughly

Whether you're fretting about an impending product launch, new application rollout, tweaked marketing approach, or some kind of technology upgrade, testing is crucial to success. Some changes may be necessary on the fly, but testing whenever possible is going to help uncover hidden issues. It's better to find these hiccups before implementing a change instead of running damage control afterward.

Track Progress

If you do not learn from history, you will be doomed to repeat it. Keeping thorough records and applying lessons learned is vital to success. Not only will record keeping help many organizations stay in compliance with regulatory oversight, it will also provide insights for future decisions. When considering the possible solutions to a problem, think about past problems and how you responded to them. Did your solutions work? Did they work as well as you intended? Were there any unforeseen side effects?

Ultimately, preventing problems before they start is going to require different data and abilities in every organization. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula to make you better at anticipating the future, these tips will help you make more thoughtful decisions and possibly prevent problems by addressing underlying causes before they appear.

Published on: Mar 23, 2017