Six Step Problem Solving Process
The ability to solve problems is an important life skill, for both your career and personal life.
Below I give a six step problem solving process that should help you problem solve more efficiently.
1) Define the Problem
Clearly define the problem you wish to solve.
2) Analyse the Problem
Have you chosen the right problem to solve?
Root cause analysis. Determine and rank the causes of the problem.
Collect any information necessary.
Involve the right people in analysing the problem, ask:
Who Knows? Who knows about the problem situation, and who has the information we need to solve it.
Who Cares? Who cares that something is done about the problem.
Who Can? Who has the ability to do something about the problem.
Determine the obstacles to solving the problem.
Break the problem down into small, manageable steps.
Formulate the questions that need to be answered to solve the problem.
Define the objectives you wish to achieve.
Determine the opportunities created by solving this problem.
3) Consider Possible Solutions
Identify steps that could be taken to achieve the objective.
List possible solutions.
4) Decide on the Best Solution
What is the best solution?
Assign a label to each possible solution for ease of reference, e.g. a letter.
Put your possible solutions in a list or table.
Evaluate each possible solution against the key criteria for solving the problem.
Apply these three criteria from Peter Drucker to select ideas to take forward:
Operational Validity – Can you take action on this solution, or can you only talk about it?
Economic Validity – Will this solution produce an economic result? What would be the early indicators that it is working?
Personal Commitment – Do you really believe in this solution? Are you really prepared to implement this solution?
Remember the best solution is likely to involve trade-offs and compromises, as decisions are rarely simple.
5) Implement the Solution with Action
Act to implement your solution.
If complex action is required, or action is required from others, create an action plan.
Obtain and allocate resources, e.g. tools.
Delegate tasks to others, using your teamworking skills.
Provide information to stakeholders.
6) Evaluate Your Solution
Once implemented, evaluate the effectiveness of your solution.
Have the actions taken delivered the desired outcomes?
Have there been any unforeseen consequences from your actions?
Review your solution and revisit the problem if necessary.
Ways to Improve Problem Solving Skills
Mind games, e.g. cryptic crosswords and Sudoku.
Computer games. These can involve strategic planning and weighing up decisions.
Practical skills, e.g. DIY, car maintenance, computer repairs and programming.
Recruiters want people with problem solving skills, that are prepared to research and implement change, and take personal responsibility to ensure targets are met.
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