How to apply Taylorism to problem solving

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Picture this example: a client needs to get from a sole proprietorship to a corporation in order to comply with the obligations to open a branch. He is thinking about buying a company from a business partner who works in a connected field, where there is still an argument about the value of said company and whether he’s selling his shares or his activity. At the same time, there is a question about the organisation of all the activities and companies within each other. For my client: it was one big problem where he couldn’t see a solution to fix it.

The solution lies in an old principle from the 18th century: Taylorism.

1. Identify the different sub-problems

For my client (and lots of other people), there is one huge problem. Instead, there are actually four problems:

  • The need for a corporation for the new activity
  • Are they going to buy the shares or found a corporation and buy the activity?
  • At what value to buy the company and what negotiation strategy to apply How to organise the structure between several companies?
  • How to organise the structure between several companies?
    There are two different approaches that work into identifying the sub-problems, are either to see what the different solutions we are looking for are, either to try and divide it in so many parts possible that still make sense.

2. See if there is a predefined order

Sometimes, you need to solve a sub-problem before you can start another one. This kind of problems are the ones that make it feel even more that a problem is too complex. In this example, the structure comes in last, as first we need to solve the problems that relate to the elements that will make up the structure.

You can compare this with a construction work: first you need to lay the foundations before you can put the roof on the building. Figuring out the order is important, since you might have to rework some things or you might get stuck because some parts are missing.

3. Prioritise

Sometimes, an order isn’t obvious or is irrelevant for a couple of sub-problems. The point here is to set priorities.

4. Solve the different problems

And there you are: you have a set of manageable problems to solve. You’ll notice you won’t feel as overwhelmed anymore and you won’t be demotivated any longer.
Don’t forget however: it’s not because you have a certain order pre-set, that you can’t deviate from it. At times, you get in a flow that fits something better, or certain things change that make you rethink certain steps.

Things rapidly change, and so do situations. Be flexible enough to change with your environment as well. I can’t repeat this enough though: a lot of principles in the business world, like this one, have applications in different fields, but can also be applied outside of the business world. Don’t be ashamed to apply the rational processes you have as a professional in your decision making or problem solving in your private life. You’ll see, it makes life easier!

Do you have other tricks you use? Share away in the comment section!