Problem Solving Stages for the AA

Lauren Krause
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The role of administrative assistant has moved beyond just an office secretary. More often than not, executives, managers and bosses count on office staff to become valuable employees who excel at problem-solving.

An administrative assistant goes through a daily routine that normally stays the same. Occasionally, a difficulty pops up when someone calls in sick, a piece of equipment breaks, deadlines are missed or the boss misses a meeting due to a cancelled flight. When something goes awry, the assistant needs to jump into action. Problem-solving becomes the top priority.

One way to tackle problem-solving is through the "step method," wherein you use a definite process to make a decision. A simple, three-stage method goes through the basic tenets of how to make your office more efficient. Plus, this process helps mitigate future difficulties and makes you a better employee.

The first step identifies the conundrum. Recognize that something went wrong as you begin problem-solving. Clearly state the dilemma, and gather as much background information as possible on the crisis. List the negative effects of what happened.

For example, the photocopier broke. No one could make copies for five hours because a maintenance person could not come out to look at it. The photocopier broke because a part gave out and it could not be fixed normally. Papers could not be filed, the mail was delayed and forms were not delivered to clients properly.

The next stage in problem-solving seeks possible solutions. Make a list of possibilities to prevent this problem from happening in the future. For instance, your office could have a spare photocopier on hand in case one breaks. You could go through a more expensive service that has emergency repairs guaranteed. Get to know a nearby copy business that can do rush jobs. Go with a cloud-based software system that gets rid of paper documents and uses electronic documents exclusively.

The final stage implements the solution. Getting another copier or buying an entire software suite may be too expensive to try immediately. However, your boss may reassure you that the firm could do that next year. Going with another photocopier place has perks, and definitely keep a nearby copy center in mind for when something goes horribly wrong.

The best office assistants are natural problem-solvers, whether the dilemma revolves around writing the company blog or arranging international travel dates. Even knowing the weather forecast and handing the boss his umbrella on the way out the door shows you have what it takes to be a vital part of the staff.

Office managers no longer fill just the role of a secretary who gets coffee, answers the phone and communicates with everyone who wants to see the boss. Everyone needs a person who excels at problem-solving, and executive assistants represent the perfect type of person to play the part.

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