We are problem solvers- Near Partner Blog post

What is a Problem-Solving Approach?

The expression “Problem-Solving Approach” has been the talk of the town, where the town is the business world.
What is this approach and why is it so popular?

At Near Partner, we have a lot of fun. We’re not just talking about running marathons together, having ping pong matches, or just overall loving our bond as a team. What connects us all is our love for what we do. But it is not always “fun and games”. We sometimes have stressful, time-sensitive situations to deal with. Situations where our clients have a problem in hands and need it fixed yesterday.

And, if a client has a problem, that becomes our problem to solve. Time to put on our problem-solving hats and apply our problem-solving approach.

Wait… what is a “problem-solving approach”?

As you have noticed, most recruiters seek “problem solvers”. Almost all career path advisors talk about problem-solving; while some call it a process, others brand it a method, and others name it a problem-solving approach. There are plenty of books, workshops and master classes dedicated problem solving. And it ranks among one of the 5 most requested skills for software engineers.

It’s also become a go-to expression, but its meaning is quite vague. For us, problem-solving is an integral part of life. We all do it, every day, in all sorts of environments and situations.

But, you might think, if problem solving is something we all do in our daily lives, at work, at home, and even in our social interactions, isn’t this whole “problem solving approach” just a new buzzword in the business world? Hm, not exactly.

In a business context, having a problem-solving approach to complex challenges means using a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach (or method) to solve a problem, following a structure that works for the environment you find yourself in. It delivers quicker and more efficient results and brings many advantages to the business.


The advantages of adopting a problem-solving approach

Developing and implementing a problem-solving approach—adapted to each business, of course—is not just a way to simplify solving problems. It is, in fact, a way to look at problems, and roadmap on how to tackle them. These are the main benefits of having a problem-solving approach for businesses.

  • Provides a solution, justifiable, and most likely reliable.
  • Ensures consistency. And consistency is key. Businesses that promote consistency in their processes (such as problem solving) ensure that the entire team understands the approach to be used.
  • It doesn’t compromise innovation. Consistency is not the opposite of innovation but rather a complement. If you are sceptical, think about this: how can anyone improve something? That’s right: by knowing exactly what works and what doesn’t.
  • Leads to greater objectivity. A problem-solving approach is based on data, not opinions, which eliminates bias. Also, it increases focus on a particular problem which must be solved using a predefined sequence of steps. This minimizes clutter and noise of irrelevant discussions to the problem at hand.
  • Promotes collaboration between co-workers, teams and management by removing divisions, many of which are also created by bias and preconceptions.
  • Makes decision-making easier, because it not only helps teams reach a consensus but also because the solution is backed up by data—that is, facts.

Adopting a problem-solving approach, together with an Agile mindset, will get your teams ready to tackle anything.


Our Problem-solving approach

At Near Partner, we think of ourselves as problem solvers, not task-doers. And this reflects in everything we do, from who we hire to how we recruit, and to how we treat each other in the company. Our metric for success isn’t how many lines of code we write. Not even how many good lines of code we write. Our metric for success is how many problems we solve. It is important to give the perfect answer, but only if we are answering the correct question.

Whenever we need to tackle a problem, we follow a structure that can be divided into six stages:

1. Describing and quantifying the problem

We always start with questions: What seems to be the problem here? What is our client facing? What do they need, and what have they gotten instead? We keep asking until we have identified the problem exactly.

2. Identifying the root causes of the problem

After the initial questions, we move on to, yes, more questions: Is there a technical limitation? Is the problem architectural? Or is it due to lack of communication with the development team? Is the business analysis correct?

3. Defining a prototype solution

The development of our solution to a client’s problem also starts with questions: What can we do about it? Should we throw the application away and redo the whole thing? Should we use some other software development language like .NET, Java or OutSystems?

4. Testing and evaluating

When we get our prototype solution, we test it. Is it working perfectly? If not, let’s circle back and question some more, think some more, and test it again.

5. Starting rollout

After all is done, tested and verified, we start rollout. And this does not only mean setting the network up and getting the software rolling. It also means getting the whole team of our client on board, explaining how to, when to, and where to.

6. Documenting (and saving) for future reference

And just before we wrap it up, we take away the important bits: what we’d got to work with, what we’ve done, how our solution turned out. Then we keep it for future reference, and only then, we think “mission accomplished”.

Are these six steps carved in stone? Not at all. This is a basic process we follow, but the beauty of it is our problem-solving approach allows us to identify and pursuit opportunities to innovate, and to create alternative paths and ways to solve problems.


Solved problems are our success metric

At the end of the day, we don’t count how many lines of code we wrote, or how many people worked on a specific project. We count how many problems we solved, how many clients we’ve helped, and how much we’ve learned in doing so.

Do you need help with problem-solving? Talk to us! Our fantastic team of problem solvers (and excellent problem finders, too) can help you figure out what is wrong and deliver a solution that is just right for your and your business’ needs. Meanwhile, take a look at our success stories.

Pedro Veloso

I'm a serial entrepreneur and a (quasi-serial) father. I'm particularly fond of technology, solving problems and team culture, and my life lies at the intersection of those interests.