Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students
Problem Solving Steps That Will Get You What You Want
In every aspect of life, problems are bound to arise. In a workplace, problems can come in the form of client complaints or issues with teams. In a school setting, you may face problems with learning or teaching. And, in personal relationships, problems may take the most complex shapes and forms. Mastering problem solving steps can help you succeed in your career and more.
While every challenge is unique in its nature, there are a few methods to problem solving that are worthwhile to learn.
What is Problem Solving?
The four basic steps to problem solving are:
1. Define the Problem
It’s common to conflate symptoms of a problem with the problem itself. When understanding what the root of the problem is, be sure to ask the right questions. If you’re problem solving in a workplace, get team feedback. If you’re problem solving in school, ask for the help of other students.
2. Create Alternatives
Once you know the problem you’re facing, it’s good to consider possible solutions. Often, there are a variety of solutions to the same problem. Be sure to exhaust all possibilities. This is another step where feedback and teamwork is useful.
3. Choose a Solution
Assess which solution will work best for those involved. If it’s in a business, then you’ll likely have to address the costs and benefits of any given solution. For problem solving in school settings, you may want to ask professors or mentors what they think will be the most effective.
4. Implement the Solution
Once you’ve chosen the best solution to a problem, you can implement it. If more problems arise, you will have to solve the problem again. But don’t give up! Overcoming challenges only makes you stronger.
What are Problem Solving Skills?
While problem solving is a skill in itself, it also intersects with other skills. These skills include:
There’s a difference between hearing and actively listening. Active listening requires the listener to give undivided attention to the speaker. By using active listening, you maximize problem solving skills because you can actually understand the problem when someone explains it.
Analytical skills are crucial for problem solving. Everyone brings a different opinion and understanding of a problem to the table. By critically thinking about what’s actually happening, you can create the best solutions.
In businesses, big data is becoming everything. Using data and research, you can prevent problems before they even arise.
Sometimes, when facing a problem, you will also have constraints. In fact, the constraints could be what’s causing the problem. Utilizing creativity can help to overcome such challenges by thinking outside the box.
Talking about problems and accurately describing their roots will allow for contributions from your team. In this way, being able to properly communicate can help to hasten problem solving.
Since challenges can have multiple solutions, you will need to know how to make a decision to implement the proper solution.
There are not many issues in life that require someone to be alone. Because of this, having a team with a strong foundation will help better address issues when they arise.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
Problem solving process: a 7-step process.
The following problem solving process is especially effective in businesses. When facing a challenge of any kind, leaders can rely on this method to come to a solution.
1. Identify the Issues
Different people may have different views on an issue. To identify the issues, allow everyone affected to share what they think is the problem.
2. Understand Interests
This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Once everyone has shared their views on a situation, it’s useful to analyze why they feel this way about it. In this step, you must be accepting of everyone’s differences. Understanding interests accurately also relies on active listening. By understanding interests, you will be able to better choose a solution that satisfies everyone’s needs.
3. Define the Problem
Defining the problem can easily be conflated by emotion. To efficiently solve problems, you should be objective rather than subjective. No matter if a problem is small like choosing what to eat or large like choosing your major in college , defining a problem accurately is the basis of solving it properly.
The Kipling Method: A well-known method to define a problem comes from Rudyard Kipling, a famous poet. The 6 necessary elements to describe a problem include:
- What is the problem?
- Why is it important to fix the problem?
- When did the problem start? What is the deadline to fix it?
- How did the problem begin? What’s its cause?
- Where is the problem happening?
- Who is affected by it?
4. Define the Goals
To solve a problem, you need to know what the goals are. In a team, it’s important that the goal is communicated. This way, everyone can work together to achieve the desired outcome.
5. Generate Solutions
Many times, a problem will have multiple solutions (unless it’s math)! To generate solutions, you can try these various methods:
- Brainstorm: Allow everyone (even yourself) to share opinions on what they think can be a useful solution. Don’t shut down ideas in this stage. First, let everything come up with and then analyze what is actually feasible or practical.
- Divide: Sometimes, problems are so big that they feel overwhelming and can lead to the fear of making a decision at all. Try to break down problems into smaller pieces to divide and conquer it in steps.
- Means-Ends Analysis: To achieve a particular goal, you can work backwards. For example, you may want to become a software engineer. For this goal, you want to earn a degree in Computer Science , but the problem is affordability . With the goal of earning your higher education, you can think of alternative solutions like an online and tuition-free education (the University of the People). In this way, you’ve taken the outcome and worked backwards to find a solution.
- Trial and Error: Problem solving often includes failure — but trial and error can lead to the best solutions. You have to be open to trying different solutions until you reach the right one through trial and error.
6. Evaluating the Best Solution
When assessing multiple solutions for a given problem, you obviously want to choose the best one. Here are some ways to do so.
- Eliminate Early: Ineffective solutions should be removed early on. Sometimes, it’s obvious what won’t work. If not, define parameters and budgets. If something is too expensive to implement, then it can quickly be removed as a solution.
- Develop a Decision Matrix: You can use a decision matrix to see solutions visually. You can create a scale, for example using the ratings 1-10. Then you can assign a percentage of importance to each criteria. Criteria can include: timeliness, cost, risk, manageability, for example. In this way, you can see what solution will be the best by creating this value system.
- Implement and Follow Up: Trust your analysis and, once you choose a solution, implement it. Be sure to track and measure if it’s helping to achieve your desired goals.
In a business setting, there are so many moving parts. It’s good practice to document problems and solutions to gauge their success. It also creates a history that one can refer back to down the line when the next problem comes to light.
Advantages of a Problem Solving Process
Having a problem solving process in place helps to alleviate stress. It also can provide the following benefits:
- There is consistency across an organization for how to manage problems
- The process promotes collaboration and teamwork
- The decision-process is informed, and therefore easier
- The solutions are rational and objective
Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash
Activities and games to boost problem solving skills.
While problems themselves aren’t fun, there are fun ways to boost problem solving skills. These skills can be honed through games. Some problem solving games and ideas to practice to boost such skills include:
- Build a tower
- Scavenger hunts
- Escape rooms
- Human circle
Problem solving is not a one-size-fits-all situation. In different settings and with different people, problems look different. That’s because everyone approaches challenges from a different perspective.
However, there are basic needs in optimizing a problem solving process through problem solving steps. When facing any issue in your life, practice a positive mindset and start by defining the problem. By asking problem solving questions, you can generate solutions alone or alongside a supportive team.
- About Problem Solving
- Related Topics
Problem Solving Resources
Case studies, problem solving related topics.
- Continuous Improvement
- Eight Disciplines (8D)
- Fishbone Diagram
- Nine Windows
- Shainin System™
- Total Quality Management (TQM)
- Quality Resources /
- Problem Solving
What is Problem Solving?.
Quality Glossary Definition: Problem solving
Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.
- The problem-solving process
- Problem solving resources
Problem Solving Chart
The Problem-Solving Process
In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below.
1. Define the problem
Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes .
The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps. These steps support the involvement of interested parties, the use of factual information, comparison of expectations to reality, and a focus on root causes of a problem. You should begin by:
- Reviewing and documenting how processes currently work (i.e., who does what, with what information, using what tools, communicating with what organizations and individuals, in what time frame, using what format).
- Evaluating the possible impact of new tools and revised policies in the development of your "what should be" model.
2. Generate alternative solutions
Postpone the selection of one solution until several problem-solving alternatives have been proposed. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your ideal solution. Once you have decided on the "what should be" model, this target standard becomes the basis for developing a road map for investigating alternatives. Brainstorming and team problem-solving techniques are both useful tools in this stage of problem solving.
Many alternative solutions to the problem should be generated before final evaluation. A common mistake in problem solving is that alternatives are evaluated as they are proposed, so the first acceptable solution is chosen, even if it’s not the best fit. If we focus on trying to get the results we want, we miss the potential for learning something new that will allow for real improvement in the problem-solving process.
3. Evaluate and select an alternative
Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative. They consider the extent to which:
- A particular alternative will solve the problem without causing other unanticipated problems.
- All the individuals involved will accept the alternative.
- Implementation of the alternative is likely.
- The alternative fits within the organizational constraints.
4. Implement and follow up on the solution
Leaders may be called upon to direct others to implement the solution, "sell" the solution, or facilitate the implementation with the help of others. Involving others in the implementation is an effective way to gain buy-in and support and minimize resistance to subsequent changes.
Regardless of how the solution is rolled out, feedback channels should be built into the implementation. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing of actual events against expectations. Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes.
You can also search articles , case studies , and publications for problem solving resources.
Innovative Business Management Using TRIZ
Introduction To 8D Problem Solving: Including Practical Applications and Examples
The Quality Toolbox
Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action
One Good Idea: Some Sage Advice ( Quality Progress ) The person with the problem just wants it to go away quickly, and the problem-solvers also want to resolve it in as little time as possible because they have other responsibilities. Whatever the urgency, effective problem-solvers have the self-discipline to develop a complete description of the problem.
Diagnostic Quality Problem Solving: A Conceptual Framework And Six Strategies ( Quality Management Journal ) This paper contributes a conceptual framework for the generic process of diagnosis in quality problem solving by identifying its activities and how they are related.
Weathering The Storm ( Quality Progress ) Even in the most contentious circumstances, this approach describes how to sustain customer-supplier relationships during high-stakes problem solving situations to actually enhance customer-supplier relationships.
The Right Questions ( Quality Progress ) All problem solving begins with a problem description. Make the most of problem solving by asking effective questions.
Solving the Problem ( Quality Progress ) Brush up on your problem-solving skills and address the primary issues with these seven methods.
Refreshing Louisville Metro’s Problem-Solving System ( Journal for Quality and Participation ) Organization-wide transformation can be tricky, especially when it comes to sustaining any progress made over time. In Louisville Metro, a government organization based in Kentucky, many strategies were used to enact and sustain meaningful transformation.
Quality Improvement Associate Certification--CQIA
Certified Quality Improvement Associate Question Bank
Lean Problem-Solving Tools
Problem Solving Using A3
NEW Root Cause Analysis E-Learning
Making the Connection In this exclusive QP webcast, Jack ReVelle, ASQ Fellow and author, shares how quality tools can be combined to create a powerful problem-solving force.
Adapted from The Executive Guide to Improvement and Change , ASQ Quality Press.
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What are the 5 steps of problem solving? Your guide with examples
July 2, 2020 by leannearmstrong
By: Leanne Armstrong
Whether you run a business, manage a team, or work in an industry where change is the norm, it may feel like something is always going wrong. Thankfully, becoming proficient in the problem solving process will alleviate a great deal of the stress that dealing with business issues can create.
Understanding the right way to solve problems not only takes the guesswork out of how to deal with difficult, unexpected, or complex situations, it can lead to more effective long-term solutions.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the 5 steps of problem solving , and help you explore a few examples of problem solving scenarios where you can see the problem solving process in action before putting it to work.
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The problem solving process
When something isn’t working, it’s important to understand what’s at the root of the problem so you can fix it and prevent it from happening again. That’s why resolving difficult or complex issues works best when you apply proven business problem solving tools and techniques – from soft skills, to software.
The problem solving process typically includes:
- Pinpointing what’s broken by gathering data and consulting with team members
- Figuring out why it’s not working by mapping out and troubleshooting the problem, and
- Deciding on the most effective way to fix it by brainstorming and then implementing a solution
While skills like active listening, collaboration, and leadership play an important role in problem solving, tools like visual mapping software make it easier to define and share problem solving objectives, play out various solutions, and even put the best fit to work.
Before you can take your first step toward solving a problem, you need to have a clear idea of what the issue is and the outcome you want to achieve by resolving it.
For example, if your company currently manufactures 50 widgets a day, but you’ve started processing orders for 75 widgets a day, you could simply say you have a production deficit.
The problem solving process will prove far more valuable, however, if you define the start and end point by clarifying that production is running short by 25 widgets a day, and you need to increase daily production by 50%.
Once you know where you’re at and where you need to end up, these 5 steps will take you from Point A to Point B:
- Figure out what’s causing the problem . You may need to gather knowledge and evaluate input from different documents, departments, and personnel to isolate the factors that are contributing to your problem. Knowledge visualization software like MindManager can help.
- Come up with a few viable solutions . Since hitting on exactly the right solution – right away – can be tough, brainstorming with your team and mapping out various scenarios is the best way to move forward. If your first strategy doesn’t pan out, you’ll have others on tap you can turn to.
- Choose the best option . Decision-making skills, and software that lets you lay out process relationships, priorities, and criteria, are invaluable for selecting the most promising solution. Whether it’s you or someone higher up making that choice, it should include weighing costs, time commitments, and any implementation hurdles.
- Put your chosen solution to work . Before implementing your fix of choice, you should make key personnel aware of changes that might affect their daily workflow, and set up benchmarks that will make it easy to see if your solution is working.
- Evaluate your outcome . Now comes the moment of truth: did the solution you implemented solve your problem? Do your benchmarks show you achieved the outcome you wanted? If so, congratulations! If not, you’ll need to tweak your solution to meet your problem solving goal.
In practice, you might not hit a home-run with every solution you execute. But the beauty of a repeatable process like problem solving is that you can carry out steps 4 and 5 again by drawing from the brainstorm options you documented during step 2.
Examples of problem solving scenarios
The best way to get a sense of how the problem solving process works before you try it for yourself is to work through some simple scenarios.
Here are 3 examples of how you can apply business problem solving techniques to common workplace challenges.
Scenario #1: Manufacturing
Building on our original manufacturing example, you determine that your company is consistently short producing 25 widgets a day and needs to increase daily production by 50%.
Since you’d like to gather data and input from both your manufacturing and sales order departments, you schedule a brainstorming session to discover the root cause of the shortage.
After examining four key production areas – machines, materials, methods, and management – you determine the cause of the problem: the material used to manufacture your widgets can only be fed into your equipment once the machinery warms up to a specific temperature for the day.
Your team comes up with 3 possible solutions.
- Leave your machinery running 24 hours so it’s always at temperature
- Invest in equipment that heats up faster
- Find an alternate material for your widgets
After weighing the expense of the first two solutions, and conducting some online research, you decide that switching to a comparable but less expensive material that can be worked at a lower temperature is your best option.
You implement your plan, monitor your widget quality and output over the following week, and declare your solution a success when daily production increases by 100%.
Scenario #2: Service Delivery
Business training is booming and you’ve had to onboard new staff over the past month. Now you learn that several clients have expressed concern about the quality of your recent training sessions.
After speaking with both clients and staff, you discover there are actually two distinct factors contributing to your quality problem:
- The additional conference room you’ve leased to accommodate your expanding training sessions has terrible acoustics
- The AV equipment you’ve purchased to accommodate your expanding workforce is on back-order – and your new hires have been making do without
You could look for a new conference room or re-schedule upcoming training sessions until after your new equipment arrives. But your team collaboratively determines that the best way to mitigate both issues at once is by temporarily renting the high-quality sound and visual system they need.
Using benchmarks that include several weeks of feedback from session attendees, and random session spot-checks you conduct personally, you conclude the solution has worked.
Scenario #3: Marketing
You’ve invested heavily in product marketing, but still can’t meet your sales goals. Specifically, you missed your revenue target by 30% last year and would like to meet that same target this year.
After collecting and examining reams of information from your sales and accounting departments, you sit down with your marketing team to figure out what’s hindering your success in the marketplace.
Determining that your product isn’t competitively priced, you map out two viable solutions.
- Hire a third-party specialist to conduct a detailed market analysis
- Drop the price of your product to undercut competitors
Since you’re in a hurry for results, you decide to immediately reduce the price of your product and market it accordingly.
When revenue figures for the following quarter show sales have declined even further – and marketing surveys show potential customers are doubting the quality of your product – you revert back to your original pricing, revisit your problem solving process, and implement the market analysis solution instead.
With the valuable information you gain, you finally arrive at just the right product price for your target market and sales begin to pick up. Although you miss your revenue target again this year, you meet it by the second quarter of the following year.
- Problem solving: what it is, and why it’s important in the workplace
- 9 problem solving tools you should be using with your team
Lean Six Sigma is a powerful problem solving technique that helps find, and solve, even the most complex issues in project, workflows, and systems. Watch this webinar to learn the basics of Lean Six Sigma, examples of where and how to use it, and a primer on how to get started.
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The Five-Step Problem-Solving Process
Sometimes when you’re faced with a complex problem, it’s best to pause and take a step back. A break from…
Sometimes when you’re faced with a complex problem, it’s best to pause and take a step back. A break from routine will help you think creatively and objectively. Doing too much at the same time increases the chances of burnout.
Solving problems is easier when you align your thoughts with your actions. If you’re in multiple places at once mentally, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed under pressure. So, a problem-solving process follows specific steps to make it approachable and straightforward. This includes breaking down complex problems, understanding what you want to achieve, and allocating responsibilities to different people to ease some of the pressure.
The problem-solving process will help you measure your progress against factors like budget, timelines and deliverables. The point is to get the key stakeholders on the same page about the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the process. Let’s discuss the five-step problem-solving process that you can adopt.
Problems at a workplace need not necessarily be situations that have a negative impact, such as a product failure or a change in government policy. Making a decision to alter the way your team works may also be a problem. Launching new products, technological upgrades, customer feedback collection exercises—all of these are also “problems” that need to be “solved”.
Here are the steps of a problem-solving process:
1. Defining the Problem
The first step in the process is often overlooked. To define the problem is to understand what it is that you’re solving for. This is also where you outline and write down your purpose—what you want to achieve and why. Making sure you know what the problem is can make it easier to follow up with the remaining steps. This will also help you identify which part of the problem needs more attention than others.
2. Analyzing the Problem
Analyze why the problem occurred and go deeper to understand the existing situation. If it’s a product that has malfunctioned, assess factors like raw material, assembly line, and people involved to identify the problem areas. This will help you figure out if the problem will persist or recur. You can measure the solution against existing factors to assess its future viability.
3. Weighing the Options
Once you’ve figured out what the problem is and why it occurred, you can move on to generating multiple options as solutions. You can combine your existing knowledge with research and data to come up with viable and effective solutions. Thinking objectively and getting inputs from those involved in the process will broaden your perspective of the problem. You’ll be able to come up with better options if you’re open to ideas other than your own.
4. Implementing The Best Solution
Implementation will depend on the type of data at hand and other variables. Consider the big picture when you’re selecting the best option. Look at factors like how the solution will impact your budget, how soon you can implement it, and whether it can withstand setbacks or failures. If you need to make any tweaks or upgrades, make them happen in this stage.
5. Monitoring Progress
The problem-solving process doesn’t end at implementation. It requires constant monitoring to watch out for recurrences and relapses. It’s possible that something doesn’t work out as expected on implementation. To ensure the process functions smoothly, you can make changes as soon as you catch a miscalculation. Always stay on top of things by monitoring how far you’ve come and how much farther you have to go.
You can learn to solve any problem—big or small—with experience and patience. Adopt an impartial and analytical approach that has room for multiple perspectives. In the workplace, you’re often faced with situations like an unexpected system failure or a key employee quitting in the middle of a crucial project.
Problem-solving skills will help you face these situations head-on. Harappa Education’s Structuring Problems course will show you how to classify and categorize problems to discover effective solutions. Equipping yourself with the right knowledge will help you navigate work-related problems in a calm and competent manner.
Explore topics such as Problem Solving , the PICK Chart , How to Solve Problems & the Barriers to Problem Solving from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.
Six Steps to Develop an Effective Problem-Solving Process
by Rawzaba Alhalabi Published on November 1, 2017
Problem-solving involves thought and understanding. Although it may appear simple, identifying a problem may be a challenging process.
“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes”, says American industrialist Henry Kaiser. According to Concise Oxford Dictionary (1995), a problem is “ doubtful or difficult matter requiring a solution” and “something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with.” Such situations are at the center of what many people do at work every day.
Whether to help a client solve a problem, support a problem-solver, or to discover new problems, problem-solving is a crucial element to the workplace ingredients. Everyone can benefit from effective problem-solving skills that would make people happier. Everyone wins. Hence, this approach is a critical element but how can you do it effectively? You need to find a solution, but not right away. People tend to put the solution at the beginning of the process but they actually needed it at the end of the process.
Here are six steps to an effective problem-solving process:
Identify the issues, understand everyone’s interests, list the possible solutions, make a decision, implement the solution.
By following the whole process, you will be able to enhance your problem-solving skills and increase your patience. Keep in mind that effective problem solving does take some time and attention. You have to always be ready to hit the brakes and slow down. A problem is like a bump road. Take it right and you’ll find yourself in good shape for the straightaway that follows. Take it too fast and you may not be in as good shape.
Case study 1:
According to Real Time Economics, there are industries that have genuinely evolved, with more roles for people with analytical and problem-solving skills. In healthcare, for example, a regulatory change requiring the digitization of health records has led to greater demand for medical records technicians. Technological change in the manufacturing industry has reduced routine factory jobs while demanding more skilled workers who can operate complex machinery.
Case study 2:
Yolanda was having a hard time dealing with difficult clients and dealing with her team at the office, so she decided to take a problem-solving course. “I was very pleased with the 2-day Problem Solving program at RSM. It is an excellent investment for anyone involved in the strategic decision-making process—be it in their own company or as a consultant charged with supporting organizations facing strategic challenges.“
Yolanda Barreros Gutiérrez, B&C Consulting
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The 5 Steps of Problem Solving
Problem solving is a critical skill for success in business – in fact it’s often what you are hired and paid to do. This article explains the five problem solving steps and provides strategies on how to execute each one.
Defining Problem Solving
Before we talk about the stages of problem solving, it’s important to have a definition of what it is. Let’s look at the two roots of problem solving — problems and solutions.
Problem – a state of desire for reaching a definite goal from a present condition  Solution – the management of a problem in a way that successfully meets the goals set for treating it
 Problem solving on Wikipedia
One important call-out is the importance of having a goal. As defined above, the solution may not completely solve problem, but it does meet the goals you establish for treating it–you may not be able to completely resolve the problem (end world hunger), but you can have a goal to help it (reduce the number of starving children by 10%).
The Five Steps of Problem Solving
With that understanding of problem solving, let’s talk about the steps that can get you there. The five problem solving steps are shown in the chart below:
However this chart as is a little misleading. Not all problems follow these steps linearly, especially for very challenging problems. Instead, you’ll likely move back and forth between the steps as you continue to work on the problem, as shown below:
Let’s explore of these steps in more detail, understanding what it is and the inputs and outputs of each phase.
1. Define the Problem
aka What are you trying to solve? In addition to getting clear on what the problem is, defining the problem also establishes a goal for what you want to achieve.
Input: something is wrong or something could be improved. Output: a clear definition of the opportunity and a goal for fixing it.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
aka What are some ways to solve the problem? The goal is to create a list of possible solutions to choose from. The harder the problem, the more solutions you may need.
Input: a goal; research of the problem and possible solutions; imagination. Output: pick-list of possible solutions that would achieve the stated goal.
3. Decide on a Solution
aka What are you going to do? The ideal solution is effective (it will meet the goal), efficient (is affordable), and has the fewest side effects (limited consequences from implementation).
Input: pick-list of possible solutions; decision-making criteria. Output: decision of what solution you will implement.
4. Implement the Solution
aka What are you doing? The implementation of a solution requires planning and execution. It’s often iterative, where the focus should be on short implementation cycles with testing and feedback, not trying to get it “perfect” the first time.
Input: decision; planning; hard work. Output: resolution to the problem.
5. Review the Results
aka What did you do? To know you successfully solved the problem, it’s important to review what worked, what didn’t and what impact the solution had. It also helps you improve long-term problem solving skills and keeps you from re-inventing the wheel.
Input: resolutions; results of the implementation. Output: insights; case-studies; bullets on your resume.
Improving Problem Solving Skills
Once you understand the five steps of problem solving, you can build your skill level in each one. Often we’re naturally good at a couple of the phases and not as naturally good at others. Some people are great at generating ideas but struggle implementing them. Other people have great execution skills but can’t make decisions on which solutions to use. Knowing the different problem solving steps allows you to work on your weak areas, or team-up with someone who’s strengths complement yours.
Want to improve your problem solving skills? Want to perfect the art of problem solving? Check out our training programs or try these 20 problem solving activities to improve creativity .
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22 thoughts on “The 5 Steps of Problem Solving”
very helpful and informative training
Thank you for the information
YOU ARE AFOOL
I’m writing my 7th edition of Effective Security Management. I would like to use your circular graphic illustration in a new chapter on problem solving. You’re welcome to phone me at — with attribution.
Sure thing, shoot us an email at [email protected] .
i love your presentation. It’s very clear. I think I would use it in teaching my class problem solving procedures. Thank you
It is well defined steps, thank you.
these step can you email them to me so I can print them out these steps are very helpful
I like the content of this article, it is really helpful. I would like to know much on how PAID process (i.e. Problem statement, Analyze the problem, Identify likely causes, and Define the actual causes) works in Problem Solving.
very useful information on problem solving process.Thank you for the update.
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It makes sense that a business would want to have an effective problem solving strategy. Things could get bad if they can’t find solutions! I think one of the most important things about problem solving is communication.
Well in our school teacher teach us –
1) problem ldentification 2) structuring the problem 3) looking for possible solutions 4) lmplementation 5) monitoring or seeking feedback 6) decision making
Pleace write about it …
I teach Professional communication (Speech) and I find the 5 steps to problem solving as described here the best method. Your teacher actually uses 4 steps. The Feedback and decision making are follow up to the actual implementation and solving of the problem.
i know the steps of doing some guideline for problem solving
steps are very useful to solve my problem
The steps given are very effective. Thank you for the wonderful presentation of the cycle/steps/procedure and their connections.
I like the steps for problem solving
It is very useful for solving difficult problem i would reccomend it to a friend
this is very interesting because once u have learned you will always differentiate the right from the wrong.
I like the contents of the problem solving steps. informative.
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5 steps (and 4 techniques) for effective problem solving.
Problem solving is the process of reviewing every element of an issue so you can get to a solution or fix it. Problem solving steps cover multiple aspects of a problem that you can bring together to find a solution. Whether that’s in a group collaboratively or independently, the process remains the same, but the approach and the steps can differ.
To find a problem solving approach that works for you, your team, or your company, you have to take into consideration the environment you’re in and the personalities around you.
Knowing the characters in the room will help you decide on the best approach to try and ultimately get to the best solution.
Table of Contents
5 problem solving steps, 4 techniques to encourage problem solving, the bottom line, more tips on problem solving.
No matter what the problem is, to solve it, you nearly always have to follow these problem solving steps. Missing any of these steps can cause the problem to either resurface or the solution to not be implemented correctly.
Once you know these steps, you can then get creative with the approach you take to find the solutions you need.
1. Define the Problem
You must define and understand the problem before you start, whether you’re solving it independently or as a group. If you don’t have a single view of what the problem is, you could be fixing something that doesn’t need fixing, or you’ll fix the wrong problem.
Spend time elaborating on the problem, write it down, and discuss everything, so you’re clear on why the problem is occurring and who it is impacting.
Once you have clarity on the problem, you then need to start thinking about every possible solution . This is where you go big and broad, as you want to come up with as many alternative solutions as possible. Don’t just take the first idea; build out as many as you can through active listening, as the more you create, the more likely you’ll find a solution that has the best impact on the team.
3. Decide on a Solution
Whichever solution you pick individually or as a team, make sure you think about the impact on others if you implement this solution. Ask questions like:
- How will they react to this change?
- Will they need to change anything?
- Who do we need to inform of this change?
4. Implement the Solution
At this stage of problem solving, be prepared for feedback, and plan for this. When you roll out the solution, request feedback on the success of the change made.
5. Review, Iterate, and Improve
Making a change shouldn’t be a one time action. Spend time reviewing the results of the change to make sure it’s made the required impact and met the desired outcomes.
Make changes where needed so you can further improve the solution implemented.
Each individual or team is going to have different needs and may need a different technique to encourage each of the problem solving steps. Try one of these to stimulate the process.
1-2-4 All Approach + Voting
The 1-2-4-All is a good problem solving approach that can work no matter how large the group is. Everyone is involved, and you can generate a vast amount of ideas quickly.
Ideas and solutions are discussed and organized rapidly, and what is great about this approach is the attendees own their ideas, so when it comes to implementing the solutions, you don’t have more work to gain buy-in.
As a facilitator, you first need to present the group with a question explaining the problem or situation. For example, “What actions or ideas would you recommend to solve the company’s lack of quiet working areas?”
With the question clear for all to see, the group then spends 5 minutes to reflect on the question individually. They can jot down their thoughts and ideas on Post-Its.
Now ask the participants to find one or two other people to discuss their ideas and thoughts with. Ask the group to move around to find a partner so they can mix with new people.
Ask the pairs to spend 5 minutes discussing their shared ideas and thoughts.
Next, put the group into groups of two or three pairs to make groups of 4-6. Each group shouldn’t be larger than six as the chances of everyone being able to speak reduces.
Ask the group to discuss one interesting idea they’ve heard in previous rounds, and each group member shares one each.
The group then needs to pick their preferred solution to the problem. This doesn’t have to be voted on, just one that resonated most with the group.
Then ask for three actions that could be taken to implement this change.
Bring everyone back together as a group and ask open questions like “What is the one thing you discussed that stood out for you?” or “Is there something you now see differently following these discussions?”
By the end of the session, you’ll have multiple approaches to solve the problem, and the whole group will have contributed to the future solutions and improvements.
The Lightning Decision Jam
The Lightning Decision Jam is a great way to solve problems collaboratively and agree on one solution or experiment you want to try straight away. It encourages team decision making, but at the same time, the individual can get their ideas and feedback across. 
If, as a team, you have a particular area you want to improve upon, like the office environment, for example, this approach is perfect to incorporate in the problem solving steps.
The approach follows a simple loop.
Make a Note – Stick It on The Wall – Vote – Prioritize
Using sticky notes, the technique identifies major problems, encourages solutions, and opens the group up for discussion. It allows each team member to play an active role in identifying both problems and ways to solve them.
Mind mapping is a fantastic visual thinking tool that allows you to bring problems to life by building out the connections and visualizing the relationships that make up the problem.
You can use a mind map to quickly expand upon the problem and give yourself the full picture of the causes of the problem, as well as solutions  .
The goal of a mind map is to simplify the problem and link the causes and solutions to the problem.
To create a mind map, you must first create the central topic (level 1). In this case, that’s the problem.
Next, create the linked topics (level 2) that you place around and connect to the main central topic with a simple line.
If the central topic is “The client is always changing their mind at the last minute,” then you could have linked topics like:
- How often does this happen?
- Why are they doing this?
- What are they asking for?
- How do they ask for it?
- What impact does this have?
Adding these linking topics allows you to start building out the main causes of the problem as you can begin to see the full picture of what you need to fix. Once you’re happy that you’ve covered the breadth of the problem and its issues, you can start to ideate on how you’re going to fix it with the problem solving steps.
Now, start adding subtopics (level 3) linking to each of the level 2 topics. This is where you can start to go big on solutions and ideas to help fix the problem.
For each of the linked topics (level 2), start to think about how you can prevent them, mitigate them, or improve them. As this is just ideas on paper, write down anything that comes to mind, even if you think the client will never agree to it!
The more you write down, the more ideas you’ll have until you find one or two that could solve the main problem.
Once you run out of ideas, take a step back and highlight your favorite solutions to take forward and implement.
The 5 Why’s
The five why’s can sound a little controversial, and you shouldn’t try this without prepping the team beforehand.
Asking “why” is a great way to go deep into the root of the problem to make the individual or team really think about the cause. When a problem arises, we often have preconceived ideas about why this problem has occurred, which is usually based on our experiences or beliefs.
Start with describing the problem, and then the facilitator can ask “Why?” fives time or more until you get to the root of the problem. It’s tough at first to keep being asked why, but it’s also satisfying when you get to the root of the problem  .
As a facilitator, although the basic approach is to ask why, you need to be careful not to guide the participant down a single route.
To help with this, you can use a mind map with the problem at the center. Then ask a why question that will result in multiple secondary topics around the central problem. Having this visual representation of the problem helps you build out more useful why questions around it.
Once you get to the root of the problem, don’t forget to be clear in the actions to put a fix in place to resolve it.
Learn more about how to use the five why’s here .
To fix a problem, you must first be in a position where you fully understand it. There are many ways to misinterpret a problem, and the best way to understand them is through conversation with the team or individuals who are experiencing it.
Once you’re aligned, you can then begin to work on the solutions that will have the greatest impact through effective problem solving steps.
For the more significant or difficult problems to solve, it’s often advisable to break the solution up into smaller actions or improvements.
Trial these improvements in short iterations, and then continue the conversations to review and improve the solution. Implementing all of these steps will help you root out the problems and find useful solutions each time.
- The Simplest Ways to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
- How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem
- Creative Problem Solving: Create Meaning from Contradictory Ideas
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The 8-Step Problem-Solving Method
- November 22, 2021
Table Of Contents
What is the 8-step problem-solving method, the 8 steps and the problem-solving process, the culture of problem-solving.
- Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA)
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As a manufacturing professional, you know how important it is to stay organized, keep your goals in mind and strive for success. But with all of the responsibilities and daily tasks piling up, it takes effort to find and stick to a process that can keep you on track.
Luckily, there’s a tried and trusted way to achieve success in the manufacturing industry.
The eight-step problem-solving process is a structured method that guides you through the various steps of solving issues. Unlike other problem-solving processes that are often broad, the eight-step method takes you through each individual step, from identifying the problem to taking actionable steps to success.
Instead of changing a few things at a middling level that will probably break down again later, you can unearth the roots of problems and build success from the ground up.
For a fundamental breakdown of how to fix problems and lead your manufacturing team to success, here are the eight steps of the problem-solving process.
1. Identify the Problem
The first step in the process is to identify the problem. Identify why this is a problem, how you discovered it and how it impacts your business. Also note when the problem started and how long it has been going on.
If the problem is small, you can try to contain it and may not need additional steps to fix it. However, if the problem is complex, move forward through the process.
2. Define the Problem
The next step involves breaking down the problem and defining what it is. It’s important to be as clear as you can with this step — a vague problem will hinder the process, whereas a clearly defined issue will allow you to take actionable steps to fix it.
Analyze factors like how high of a priority it is to solve the problem. You can also look to data and other resources to clarify or help you understand the concern.
3. Make a Goal
Create an end goal. Envision what fixing this problem would look like and feel like. What would it accomplish? How would it help you? Map out all the ways fixing this problem would benefit you and use it for motivation to achieve your goal. Set a timeline to figure how long it will take to accomplish that goal.
4. Find the Root of the Problem
Often problems are byproducts of deeper, more central problems, so make sure you dig deep enough to find out what is really causing the issue. If the problem is large and complex, break it down into individual parts.
Gather information and use it to identify the deeper issues of the problem and validate what you think the real concern may be. Take time at this step to really focus on the deep problem — executing this step effectively will save you a lot of time down the road.
5. Develop Actionable Steps
Create a list of realistic steps you can take to combat the problem. You can start with a large list and combine or subtract steps, but it’s important you come up with various ways to attack the problem. Use this action plan to draw up a strategy to get at the root of the problem. Each step should be specific and detail-focused — any steps that are vague or tedious will only take up time and cause confusion.
6. Execute Steps
Now that the plan is in place, all you have to do is follow through on your actionable steps. Illustrate the steps you’re taking to your team, explain why you’re taking them and delegate any steps that another employee has to perform to execute your plan.
Communication is key in this step. In most cases, you won’t be executing the plan all by yourself, so make sure you’re expressing the goals and motives of each step with your team so they can see how it connects to the bigger picture.
7. Observe and Evaluate
Monitor your strategy carefully and see how it relates to the original problem. Is it working? Is it only creating more problems? Gather data, talk to your team and be thorough and objective in your evaluation. You might have to readjust your plan as you gain new information, or you may meet your goals and the plan will be successful.
8. Continue the Process
If the plan worked, find ways to continue integrating these steps into your team’s daily routine. If they didn’t work, go back to the goal-setting process or identify some more aspects of the problem — there may be a deeper concern you missed the first time around. Communicate to your team about how the plan went.
In the future, continue using the eight-step process to solve issues and build momentum with your team.
It’s important to build a culture of problem-solving in your manufacturing plant. It can be easy to fall into the trap of “Band-Aid” solutions — quick fixes without digging into the deeper problems.
It’s believed that the eight-step problem-solving process was actually created by the Toyota Motor Corporation to achieve their admired production standards.
From the lore of Toyota, we get some great eight-step problem-solving examples. Taiichi Ohno , the father of the Toyota Production System, observed his workers fixing only the first level of cause when their machines stopped working. To combat this, he developed a problem-solving method to methodically break down each problem of the machine until he found the root cause. Only then could he truly fix the machine.
It’s one of many eight-step problem-solving examples, and it shows the importance of creating a process to increase productivity.
Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) and the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process Differences
The eight-step problem-solving process is an expanded version of the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle . The first five steps of the 8-step process fall under the planning step, while steps six, seven and eight all correspond to the do, check and act steps. The eight-step process is a more detailed, methodical version of PDCA problem-solving, and converts a vague cycle into something a bit more specific and actionable.
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Our expert staff has had vast experience in the manufacturing industry, and we can provide the guidance you need to get your business running at top efficiency. Our services are affordable and extremely valuable. Contact us today!
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8-step problem solving process, organizational effectiveness.
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Step 1: Define the Problem
- What is the problem?
- How did you discover the problem?
- When did the problem start and how long has this problem been going on?
- Is there enough data available to contain the problem and prevent it from getting passed to the next process step? If yes, contain the problem.
Step 2: Clarify the Problem
- What data is available or needed to help clarify, or fully understand the problem?
- Is it a top priority to resolve the problem at this point in time?
- Are additional resources required to clarify the problem? If yes, elevate the problem to your leader to help locate the right resources and form a team.
- Consider a Lean Event (Do-it, Burst, RPI, Project).
- ∙Ensure the problem is contained and does not get passed to the next process step.
Step 3: Define the Goals
- What is your end goal or desired future state?
- What will you accomplish if you fix this problem?
- What is the desired timeline for solving this problem?
Step 4: Identify Root Cause of the Problem
- Identify possible causes of the problem.
- Prioritize possible root causes of the problem.
- What information or data is there to validate the root cause?
Step 5: Develop Action Plan
- Generate a list of actions required to address the root cause and prevent problem from getting to others.
- Assign an owner and timeline to each action.
- Status actions to ensure completion.
Step 6: Execute Action Plan
- Implement action plan to address the root cause.
- Verify actions are completed.
Step 7: Evaluate the Results
- Monitor and Collect Data.
- Did you meet your goals defined in step 3? If not, repeate th 8-Step Process.
- Were there any unforeseen consequences?
- If problem is resolved, remove activities that were added previously to contain the problem.
Step 8: Continuously Improve
- Look for additional opportunities to implement solution.
- Ensure problem will not come back and communicate lessons learned.
- If needed, repeat the 8-Step Problem Solving Process to drive further improvements.
- Miles Anthony Smith
- Sep 12, 2022
- 12 min read
The Ultimate Problem-Solving Process Guide: 31 Steps and Resources
Updated: Jan 24
GOT CHALLENGES WITH YOUR PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS? ARE YOU FRUSTRATED?
prob·lem-solv·ing noun -the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But in reality problem-solving is hard. It's almost always more complex than it seems. That's why problem-solving can be so frustrating sometimes. You can feel like you’re spinning your wheels, arguing in circles, or just failing to find answers that actually work. And when you've got a group working on a problem, it can get even muddier …differences of opinions, viewpoints colored by different backgrounds, history, life experiences, you name it. We’re all looking at life and work from different angles, and that often means disagreement. Sometimes sharp disagreement. That human element, figuring out how to take ourselves out of the equation and make solid, fact-based decisions , is precisely why there’s been so much written on problem-solving. Which creates its own set of problems. Whose method is best? How can you possibly sift through them all? Are we to have one person complete the entire problem-solving process by themselves or rely on a larger team to find answers to our most vexing challenges in the workplace ? Today, we’re going to make sense of it all. We’ll take a close look at nine top problem-solving methods. Then we’ll grab the best elements of all of them to give you a process that will have your team solving problems faster, with better results , and maybe with less sharp disagreement. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
9 PROFITABLE PROBLEM-SOLVING TECHNIQUES AND METHODS
While there are loads of methods to choose from, we are going to focus on nine of the more common ones. You can use some of these problem-solving techniques reactively to solve a known issue or proactively to find more efficient or effective ways of performing tasks. If you want to explore other methods, check out this resource here . A helpful bit of advice here is to reassure people that you aren’t here to identify the person that caused the problem . You’re working to surface the issue, solve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again, regardless of the person working on the process. It can’t be understated how important it is to continually reassure people of this so that you get unfiltered access to information. Without this, people will often hide things to protect themselves . After all, nobody wants to look bad, do they? With that said, let’s get started...
1. CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING (CPS)
Alex Osborn coined the term “Creative Problem Solving” in the 1940s with this simple four-step process:
Clarify : Explore the vision, gather data, and formulate questions.
Ideate : This stage should use brainstorming to generate divergent thinking and ideas rather than the random ideas normally associated with brainstorming.
Develop : Formulate solutions as part of an overall plan.
Implement : Put the plan into practice and communicate it to all parties.
2. APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
Source: http://www.davidcooperrider.com/ai-process/ This method seeks, first and foremost, to identify the strengths in people and organizations and play to that “positive core” rather than focus our energies on improving weaknesses . It starts with an “affirmative topic,” followed by the “positive core (strengths).” Then this method delves into the following stages:
Dream (visioning the future)
Design (strategic purpose)
Destiny (continuous improvement)
3. “FIVE WHYS” METHOD
This method simply suggests that we ask “Why” at least five times during our review of the problem and in search of a fix. This helps us dig deeper to find the the true reason for the problem, or the root cause. Now, this doesn’t mean we just keeping asking the same question five times. Once we get an answer to our first “why”, we ask why to that answer until we get to five “whys”.
Using the “five whys” is part of the “Analyze” phase of Six Sigma but can be used with or without the full Six Sigma process.
Review this simple Wikipedia example of the 5 Whys in action:
The vehicle will not start. (the problem)
Why? - The battery is dead. (First why)
Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (Second why)
Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (Third why)
Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (Fourth why)
Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Fifth why, a root cause)
4. LEAN SIX SIGMA (DMAIC METHOD)
While many people have at least heard of Lean or Six Sigma, do we know what it is? Like many problem-solving processes, it has five main steps to follow.
Define : Clearly laying out the problem and soliciting feedback from those who are customers of the process is necessary to starting off on the right foot.
Measure : Quantifying the current state of the problem is a key to measuring how well the fix performed once it was implemented.
Analyze : Finding out the root cause of the problem (see number 5 “Root Cause Analysis” below) is one of the hardest and least explored steps of Six Sigma.
Improve : Crafting, executing, and testing the solution for measureable improvement is key. What doesn’t get implemented and measured really won’t make a difference.
Control : Sustaining the fix through a monitoring plan will ensure things continue to stay on track rather than being a short-lived solution.
5. ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS
Compared to other methods, you’ll more often find this technique in a reactive problem-solving mode, but it is helpful nonetheless. Put simply, it requires a persistent approach to finding the highest-level cause, since most reasons you’ll uncover for a problem don’t tell the whole story.
Most of the time, there are many factors that contributed to an issue. The main reason is often shrouded in either intentional or unintentional secrecy. Taking the time to drill down to the root of the issue is key to truly solving the problem.
6. DEMING-SHEWHART CYCLE: PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT (PDCA)
Named for W. Edwards Deming and Walter A. Shewhart, this model follows a four-step process:
Plan: Establish goals and objectives at the outset to gain agreement. It’s best to start on a small scale in order to test results and get a quick win.
Do: This step is all about the implementation and execution of the solution.
Check: Study and compare actual to expected results. Chart this data to identify trends.
Act/Adjust: If the check phase showed different results, then adjust accordingly. If worse than expected, then try another fix. If the same or better than expected, then use that as the new baseline for future improvements.
7. 8D PROBLEM-SOLVING
While this is named “8D” for eight disciplines, there are actually nine , because the first is listed as step zero. Each of the disciplines represents a phase of this process. Its aim is to implement a quick fix in the short term while working on a more permanent solution with no recurring issues.
Prepare and Plan : Collecting initial information from the team and preparing your approach to the process is a necessary first step.
Form a Team : Select a cross-functional team of people, one leader to run meetings and the process, and one champion/sponsor who will be the final decision-maker.
Describe the Problem : Using inductive and deductive reasoning approaches, lay out the precise issue to be corrected.
Interim Containment Action : Determine if an interim solution needs to be implemented or if it can wait until the final fix is firmed up. If necessary, the interim action is usually removed once the permanent solution is ready for implementation.
Root Cause Analysis and Escape Point : Finding the root of the issue and where in the process it could’ve been found but was not will help identify where and why the issue happened.
Permanent Corrective Action : Incorporating key criteria into the solution, including requirements and wants, will help ensure buy-in from the team and your champion.
Implement and Validate the Permanent Corrective Action : Measuring results from the fix implemented validates it or sends the team back to the drawing board to identity a more robust solution.
Prevent Recurrence : Updating work procedure documents and regular communication about the changes are important to keep old habits in check.
Closure and Team Celebration : Taking time to praise the team for their efforts in resolving the problem acknowledges the part each person played and offers a way to move forward.
8. ARMY PROBLEM SOLVING PROCESS
The US Army has been solving problems for more than a couple of centuries , so why not take a look at the problem-solving process they’ve refined over many years? They recommend this five step process:
Identify the Problem : Take time to understand the situation and define a scope and limitations before moving forward.
Gather Information : Uncover facts, assumptions, and opinions about the problem, and challenge them to get to the truth.
Develop Screening and Evaluation Criteria :
Five screening items should be questioned. Is it feasible, acceptable, distinguishable, and complete?
Evaluation criteria should have these 5 elements: short title, definition, unit of measure, benchmark, and formula.
Generate, Analyze, and Compare Possible Solutions : Most fixes are analyzed, but do you compare yours to one another as a final vetting method?
Choose a Solution and Implement : Put the fix into practice and follow up to ensure it is being followed consistently and having the desired effect.
9. HURSON'S PRODUCTIVE THINKING MODEL
Tim Hurson introduced this model in 2007 with his book, Think Better. It consists of the following six actions.
Ask "What is going on?" : Define the impact of the problem and the aim of its solution.
Ask "What is success?" : Spell out the expected outcome, what should not be in fix, values to be considered, and how things will be evaluated.
Ask "What is the question?" : Tailor questions to the problem type. Valuable resources can be wasted asking questions that aren’t truly relevant to the issue.
Generate answers : Prioritize answers that are the most relevant to solutions, without excluding any suggestion to present to the decision-makers.
Forge the solution : Refine the raw list of prioritized fixes, looking for ways to combine them for a more powerful solution or eliminate fixes that don’t fit the evaluation criteria.
Align resources: Identify resources, team, and stakeholders needed to implement and maintain the solution.
STEAL THIS THOROUGH 8-STEP PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS
Now that we’ve reviewed a number of problem-solving methods, we’ve compiled the various steps into a straightforward, yet in-depth, s tep-by-step process to use the best of all methods.
1. DIG DEEP: IDENTIFY, DEFINE, AND CLARIFY THE ISSUE
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” you might say.
This is true, but we often forget the fundamentals before trying to solve a problem. So take some time to gain understanding of critical stakeholder’s viewpoints to clarify the problem and cement consensus behind what the issue really is.
Sometimes it feels like you’re on the same page, but minor misunderstandings mean you’re not really in full agreement.. It’s better to take the time to drill down on an issue before you get too far into solving a problem that may not be the exact problem . Which leads us to…
2. DIG DEEPER: ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS
This part of the process involves identifying these three items :
Why did it happen?
What process do we need to employ to significantly reduce the chances of it happening again ?
You’ll usually need to sort through a series of situations to find the primary cause. So be careful not to stop at the first cause you uncover . Dig further into the situation to expose the root of the issue. We don’t want to install a solution that only fixes a surface-level issue and not the root. T here are typically three types of causes :
Physical: Perhaps a part failed due to poor design or manufacturing.
Human error: A person either did something wrong or didn’t do what needed to be done.
Organizational: This one is mostly about a system, process, or policy that contributed to the error .
When searching for the root cause, it is important to ensure people that you aren’t there to assign blame to a person but rather identify the problem so a fix can prevent future issues.
3. PRODUCE A VARIETY OF SOLUTION OPTIONS
So far, you’ve approached the problem as a data scientist, searching for clues to the real issue. Now, it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open, in case you run across a fix suggested by one of those involved in the process failure. Because they are closest to the problem, they will often have an idea of how to fix things. In other cases, they may be too close, and unable to see how the process could change.
The bottom line is to solicit solution ideas from a variety of sources , both close to and far away from the process you’re trying to improve.
You just never know where the top fix might come from!
4. FULLY EVALUATE AND SELECT PLANNED FIX(ES)
Evaluating solutions to a defined problem can be tricky since each one will have cost, political, or other factors associated with it. Running each fix through a filter of cost and impact is a vital step toward identifying a solid solution and hopefully settling on the one with the highest impact and low or acceptable cost.
Categorizing each solution in one of these four categoriescan help teams sift through them:
High Cost/Low Impact: Implement these last, if at all, since t hey are expensive and won’t move the needle much .
Low Cost/Low Impact: These are cheap, but you won’t get much impact.
High Cost/High Impact: These can be used but should be second to the next category.
Low Cost/High Impact: Getting a solid “bang for your buck” is what these fixes are all about. Start with these first .
5. DOCUMENT THE FINAL SOLUTION AND WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
Formalize a document that all interested parties (front-line staff, supervisors, leadership, etc.) agree to follow. This will go a long way towards making sure everyone fully understands what the new process looks like, as well as what success will look like .
While it might seem tedious, try to be overly descriptive in the explanation of the solution and how success will be achieved. This is usually necessary to gain full buy-in and commitment to continually following the solution. We often assume certain things that others may not know unless we are more explicit with our communications.
6. SUCCESSFULLY SELL AND EXECUTE THE FIX
Arriving at this stage in the process only to forget to consistently apply the solution would be a waste of time, yet many organizations fall down in the execution phase . Part of making sure that doesn’t happen is to communicate the fix and ask for questions multiple times until all parties have a solid grasp on what is now required of them.
One often-overlooked element of this is the politics involved in gaining approval for your solution. Knowing and anticipating objections of those in senior or key leadership positions is central to gaining buy-in before fix implementation.
7. RINSE AND REPEAT: EVALUATE, MONITOR, AND FOLLOW UP
Next, doing check-ins with the new process will ensure that the solution is working (or identity if further reforms are necessary) . You’ll also see if the measure of predefined success has been attained (or is making progress in that regard).
Without regularly monitoring the fix, you can only gauge the success or failure of the solution by speculation and hearsay. And without hard data to review, most people will tell their own version of the story.
8. COLLABORATIVE CONTINGENCIES, ITERATION, AND COURSE CORRECTION
Going into any problem-solving process, we should take note that we will not be done once the solution is implemented (or even if it seems to be working better at the moment). Any part of any process will always be subject to the need for future iterations and course corrections . To think otherwise would be either foolish or naive.
There might need to be slight, moderate, or wholesale changes to the solution previously implemented as new information is gained, new technologies are discovered, etc.
14 FRUITFUL RESOURCES AND EXERCISES FOR YOUR PROBLEM-SOLVING JOURNEY
Want to test your problem-solving skills?
Take a look at these twenty case study scenario exercises to see how well you can come up with solutions to these problems.
Still have a desire to discover more about solving problems?
Check out these 14 articles and books...
1. THE LEAN SIX SIGMA POCKET TOOLBOOK: A QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE TO NEARLY 100 TOOLS FOR IMPROVING QUALITY AND SPEED
This book is like a Bible for Lean Six Sigma , all in a pocket-sized package.
2. SOME SAGE PROBLEM SOLVING ADVICE
The American Society for Quality has a short article on how it’s important to focus on the problem before searching for a solution.
3. THE SECRET TO BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING: HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Wondering if you are solving the right problems? Check out this Harvard Business Review article.
4. PROBLEM SOLVING 101 : A SIMPLE BOOK FOR SMART PEOPLE
Looking for a fun and easy problem-solving book that was written by a McKinsey consultant? Take a look!
5. THE BASICS OF CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING – CPS
If you want a deeper dive into the seven steps of Creative Problem Solving , see this article.
6. APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY : A POSITIVE REVOLUTION IN CHANGE
Appreciative Inquiry has been proven effective in organizations ranging from Roadway Express and British Airways to the United Nations and the United States Navy. Review this book to join the positive revolution.
7. PROBLEM SOLVING: NINE CASE STUDIES AND LESSONS LEARNED
The Seattle Police Department has put together nine case studies that you can practice solving . While they are about police work, they have practical application in the sleuthing of work-related problems.
8. ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS : THE CORE OF PROBLEM SOLVING AND CORRECTIVE ACTION
Need a resource to delve further into Root Cause Analysis? Look no further than this book for answers to your most vexing questions .
9. SOLVING BUSINESS PROBLEMS : THE CASE OF POOR FRANK
This solid case study illustrates the complexities of solving problems in business.
10. THE 8-DISCIPLINES PROBLEM SOLVING METHODOLOGY
Learn all about the “8Ds” with this concise primer.
11. THE PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS THAT PREVENTS GROUPTHINK HBR
Need to reduce groupthink in your organization’s problem-solving process ? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.
12. THINK BETTER : AN INNOVATOR'S GUIDE TO PRODUCTIVE THINKING
Tim Hurson details his own Productive Thinking Model at great length in this book from the author.
13. 5 STEPS TO SOLVING THE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR PROBLEM SOLVING INC MAGAZINE
This simple five-step process will help you break down the problem, analyze it, prioritize solutions, and sell them internally.
14. CRITICAL THINKING : A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CRITICAL THINKING, BETTER DECISION MAKING, AND PROBLEM SOLVING!
LOOKING FOR ASSISTANCE WITH YOUR PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS?
There's a lot to take in here, but following some of these methods are sure to improve your problem-solving process. However, if you really want to take problem-solving to the next level, InitiativeOne can come alongside your team to help you solve problems much faster than you ever have before.
There are several parts to this leadership transformation process provided by InitiativeOne, including a personal profile assessment, cognitive learning, group sessions with real-world challenges, personal discovery, and a toolkit to empower leaders to perform at their best.
There are really only two things stopping good teams from being great. One is how they make decisions and two is how they solve problems. Contact us today to grow your team’s leadership performance by making decisions and solving problems more swiftly than ever before!
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Efficiently solve issues with 7 steps of problem solving
In the corporate world, you might face the challenges of problem solving and decision-making regularly. Ask anyone in the workplace, problem and decision-making activities are two essential parts of the day. The frequency of these issues for everyone highlights that these activities are critical elements of our work, but we don’t know how to deal with a problem effectively.
The interesting thing about problem solving is that when people face a problem, they tend to do three things. They get afraid or uncomfortable and wish to get rid of a problem immediately; they feel that they have to come up with one right answer and look for someone to blame. A problem becomes a huge problem with these three solutions.
Two reasons, explaining why we see the problem as a problem. First one is that when we face a problem, we try to solve it immediately. Secondly, we are not sure how to find the best solution for a particular challenge. There will be conflict about what is the best option to solve a particular problem. The problem makes people conflict averse. Two most important thing to remember about the certain problem is to know that they happen all the time and these are opportunities to improve systems and relationships. The problem provides information that we can use to fix what needs fixing and to do a better job.
People are born with the ability to solve the problem. The biggest challenge of problem solving is to overcome the tendency to come up with a solution immediately. Problem solving is the process of working through details of the problem in order to find one best solution. Problem solving includes mathematical or systematic operations, and it can be a gauge of an individual’s critical thinking. The objective of problem solving is to make people and organization more conflict-friendly and conflict competent. Here are 7 steps of problem solving, which can help you to resolve a problem effectively and efficiently.
7 Steps of Problem Solving
Step 1: identifying the problem.
The first phase of problem solving is based on proper identification of the problem. Ask yourself what the problem is. There could be many potential problems for an issue and without a proper approach; it can confuse you on how to start. By defining a particular problem, you would be able to focus on finding the best solution for a particular problem.
Step 2: Defining Goals
At the second level of problem solving, you should have to establish goals. Try to make your goals as specific, real and achievable as possible. Properly defined goals set a direction and a guide to solve a particular problem.
Step 3: Brainstorming
Brainstorming is the third most significant stage of problem solving. At this stage, the problem solver is required to take time and think about possible ways of solving a particular problem. At this stage, the problem solver is required to write down all the possible ways to resolve a particular problem. Don’t hurry up and don’t try to jump to the solutions immediately. Find different alternatives for solving one problem.
Step 4: Assessing Alternatives
Assess the option you have discovered in the previous step. Weigh the positive and negative effects, consequences and risk associated with each choice.
Step 5: Choosing the Solution
At this stage of problem solving, choose one best possible solution evaluated on a rational basis. Choose an appropriate solution as per risk and advantages associated with the solution and as per your own criteria for choosing an appropriate solution.
Step 6: Active Execution of the Chosen Solution
Implement best possible solution selected in previous step. At this stage, you are required to concentrate on the performance of a particular solution. Don’t worry about the failure and don’t occupy yourself with expected problems.
Step 7: Evaluation
Evaluation is the last step in the problem solving process. Evaluation helps you to understand what the shortcoming are in particular solution which you have selected. Evaluation is a critical examination of a given situation and a given problem. In the process of solving a particular problem evaluation stage is an attempt to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the whole process. If you are not successful in addressing a particular problem, then don’t worry you might have learned something. Utilize your learning and go for the selection and execution of another best solution.
Conclusion on 7 steps of problem solving
The 7 steps of problem solving provide a systematic approach on solvinga problem. If they are kept in mind every time you approach an issue, you avoid jumping to conclusions and implement solutions on an issue which is not properly understood. The 7 steps of problem solving are the natural steps that need to be taken to solve an issue, there is no short cut.
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The Six Step Problem Solving Model
Problem solving models are used to address the many challenges that arise in the workplace. While many people regularly solve problems, there are a range of different approaches that can be used to find a solution.
Complex challenges for teams, working groups and boards etc., are usually solved more quickly by using a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach to problem solving.
Advantages of Six-Step Problem Solving
The Six-Step method provides a focused procedure for the problem solving (PS) group.
- It ensures consistency, as everyone understands the approach to be used.
- By using data, it helps eliminate bias and preconceptions, leading to greater objectivity.
- It helps to remove divisions and encourages collaborative working.
- It stops PS groups diverging into different problems.
- It also helps PS groups reach consensus
- It eliminates the confusion caused when people use different problem solving techniques on the same issue.
- It makes the decision making process easier.
- It provides a justifiable solution.
All six steps are followed in order – as a cycle, beginning with “1. Identify the Problem.” Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step.
The steps are repeatable. At any point the group can return to an earlier step, and proceed from there. For example, once the real problem is identified – using “2. Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem”, the group may return to the first step to redefine the problem.
The Six Steps
- Define the Problem
- Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem
- Develop Alternative Solutions
- Select a Solution
- Implement the Solution
- Evaluate the Outcome
The process is one of continuous improvement. The goal is not to solve but to evolve, adjusting the solution continually as new challenges emerge, through repeating the Six Step Process.
Step One: Define the Problem
Step One is about diagnosing the problem – the context, background and symptoms of the issue. Once the group has a clear grasp of what the problem is, they investigate the wider symptoms to discover the implications of the problem, who it affects, and how urgent/important it is to resolve the symptoms.
At this stage groups will use techniques such as:
As this step continues, the PS group will constantly revise the definition of the problem. As more symptoms are found, it clarifies what the real problem is.
Step Two: Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem
Once all the symptoms are found and the problem diagnosed and an initial definition agreed, the PS group begins to explore what has caused the problem. In this step the problem solving team will use tools such as:
- Fishbone diagrams
- Pareto analysis
- Affinity diagrams
These techniques help collate the information in a structured way, and focus in on the underlying causes of the problem. This is called the root cause.
At this stage, the group may return to step one to revise the definition of the problem.
Step Three: Develop Alternative Solutions
Analytical, creative problem solving is about creating a variety of solutions, not just one. Often the most obvious answer is not the most effective solution to the problem. The PS group focuses on:
- Finding as many solutions to the problem, no matter how outlandish they may seem.
- Looking at how each solution relates to the root cause and symptoms of the problem.
- Deciding if different solutions can be merged to give a better answer to the problem.
At this stage it is not about finding one solution, but eliminating the options that will prove less effective at dealing with both the symptoms and the root cause.
Step Four: Select a Solution
In the fourth step, groups evaluate all the selected, potential solutions, and narrow it down to one. This step applies two key questions.
- Which solution is most feasible?
- Which solution is favoured by those who will implement and use it?
Feasibility is ascertained by deciding if a solution:
- Can be implemented within an acceptable timeframe?
- Is cost effective, reliable and realistic?
- Will make resource usage more effective?
- Can adapt to conditions as they evolve and change?
- Its risks are manageable?
- Will benefit the organization/
Which solution is favoured?
Acceptance by the people who will use and implement the solution is key to success.
This is where the previous steps come into play. To users and implementers, a solution may seem too radical, complex or unrealistic. The previous two steps help justify the choices made by the PS group, and offer a series of different, viable solutions for users and implementers to discuss and select from.
Step Five: Implement the Solution
Once the solution has been chosen, initial project planning begins and establishes:
- The project manager.
- Who else needs to be involved to implement the solution.
- When the project will start.
- The key milestones
- What actions need to be taken before implementing the solution
- What actions need to be taken during the implementing the solution
- Why are these actions necessary?
The group may use tools, such as a Gantt chart, timeline or log frame. Between Steps Five and during Step Six the operational/technical implementation of the chosen solution takes place.
Step Six: Evaluate the Outcome
The project implementation now needs to be monitored by the group to ensure their recommendations are followed. Monitoring includes checking:
- Milestones are met
- Costs are contained
- Necessary work is completed
Many working groups skip Step Six as they believe that the project itself will cover the issues above, but this often results in the desired outcome not being achieved.
Effective groups designate feedback mechanisms to detect if the project is going off course. They also ensure the project is not introducing new problems. This step relies on:
- The collection of data
- Accurate, defined reporting mechanisms
- Regular updates from the Project Manager
- Challenging progress and actions when necessary
In Step Six, as the results of the project emerge, evaluation helps the group decide if they need to return to a previous step or continue with the implementation. Once the solution goes live, the PS group should continue to monitor the solutions progress, and be prepared to re-initiate the Six Step process when it is required.
Overall, the Six Step method is a simple and reliable way to solve a problem. Using a creative, analytical approach to problem solving is an intuitive and reliable process.
It helps keep groups on track, and enables a thorough investigation of the problem and solution search. It involves implementers and users, and finds a justifiable, monitorable solution based on data.
You can read more about the Six-Step Problem Solving Model in our free eBook ‘ Top 5 Problem Solving Tools ’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.
- The Six Step Problem Solving Model provides a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach to problem solving.
- Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step. However, the steps are repeatable. At any point the group can return to an earlier step, and proceed from there.
- The goal is not to solve but to evolve, adjusting the solution continually as new challenges emerge, through repeating the Six Step Process.
- Step 1) Define the Problem – Identify problems through problem formulation and questioning. The key is asking the right questions to discover root causes.
- Step 2) Determine the Root Cause – During this process, assumptions are uncovered and underlying problems are further revealed. Also, this is an opportunity to collect and analyze data.
- Step 3) Develop Alternative Solutions – Decisions are made within the group to determine the appropriate solution and process through creative selection.
- Step 4) Select a Solution – Once the group has formed solutions and alternatives to the problem(s), they need to explore the pros and cons of each option through forecasting consequences.
- Step 5) Implement the Solution – Develop an action plan to implement and execute the solution process.
- Step 6) Evaluate the Outcome – This final stage requires an evaluation of the outcomes and results of the solution process. Ask questions such as: Did the option answer the questions we were working on? Did this process address the findings that came out of the assumptions?
- This process helps keep groups on track, and enables a thorough investigation of the problem and solution search.
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Problem Solving - 3 Basic Steps
Don't complicate it.
Problems can be confusing. Your problem-solving process shouldn’t make them more confusing. With a variety of different tools available, it’s common for people in the same company to use different approaches and different terminology. This makes problem solving problematic. It shouldn’t be.
Some companies use 5Whys , some use fishbone diagrams , and some categorize incidents into generic buckets like " human error " and " procedure not followed ." Some problem-solving methods have six steps, some have eight steps and some have 14 steps. It’s easy to understand how employees get confused.
6-sigma is another widely recognized problem-solving tool. It has five steps with its own acronym, DMAIC: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. The first two steps are for defining and measuring the problem . The third step is the analysis . And the fourth and fifth steps are improve and control, and address solutions .
3 Basic Steps of Problem Solving
As the name suggests, problem solving starts with a problem and ends with solutions. The step in the middle is the analysis. The level of detail within a problem changes based on the magnitude of an issue, but the basic steps of problem solving remain the same regardless of the type of problem:
Step 1. Problem
Step 2. analysis, step 3. solutions.
But these steps are not necessarily what everyone does. Some groups jump directly to solutions after a hasty problem definition. The analysis step is regularly neglected. Individuals and organizations don’t dig into the details that are essential to understand the issue. In the Cause Mapping® method, the point of root cause analysis is to reveal what happened within an incident—to do that digging.
Step 1. Problem
A complete problem definition consists of several different questions:
- What is the problem?
- When did it happen?
- Where did it happen?
- What was the total impact to each of the organization’s overall goals?
These four questions capture what individuals see as a problem, along with the specifics about the setting of the issue (the time and place), and, importantly, the overall consequences to the organization. The traditional approach of writing a problem description as a few sentences doesn’t necessarily capture the information needed for a complete definition. Some organizations see their problem as a single effect, but that doesn’t reflect the nature of an actual issue since different negative outcomes can occur within the same incident. Specific pieces of information are captured within each of the four questions to provide a thorough definition of the problem.
The analysis step provides a clear explanation of an issue by breaking it down into parts. A simple way to organize the details of an incident is to make a timeline . Each piece of the incident in placed in chronological order. A timeline is an effective way to understand what happened and when for an issue.
Ultimately, the objective of problem solving is to turn the negative outcomes defined in step 1 into positive results. To do so, the causes that produced the unwanted outcomes must be identified. These causes provide both the explanation of the issue as well as control points for different solution options. This cause-and-effect approach is the basis of explaining and preventing a problem solving. It’s why cause-and-effect thinking is fundamental for troubleshooting, critical thinking and effective root cause analysis.
Many organizations are under-analyzing their problems because they stop at generic categories like procedure not followed, training less than adequate or management systems . This is a mistake. Learning how to dig a littler further, by asking more Why questions, can reveal significant insight about those chronic problems that people have come to accept as normal operations.
A Cause Map™ diagram provides a way for frontline personnel, technical leads and managers to communicate the details of an issue objectively, accurately and thoroughly. A cause-and-effect analysis can begin as a single, linear path that can be expanded into as much detail as needed to fully understand the issue.
Solutions are specific actions that control specific causes to produce specific outcomes. Both short-term and long-term solutions can be identified from a clear and accurate analysis. It is also important for people to understand that every cause doesn’t need to be solved. Most people believe that 15 causes require 15 solutions. That is not true. Changing just one cause along a causal path breaks that chain of events. Providing solutions on more than one causal path provides additional layers of protection to further reduce the risk of a similar issue occurring in the future.
The Basics of Problem Solving Don't Change
These three steps of problem solving can be applied consistently across an organization from frontline troubleshooters to the executives. First principles should be the foundation of a company’s problem-solving culture. Overlooking these basics erodes critical thinking. Even though the fundamentals of cause-and-effect don’t change, organizations and individuals continue to find special adjectives, algorithms and jargon appealing. Teaching too many tools and using contrived terms such as “true root causal factors” is a symptom of ignoring lean principles. Don’t do that which is unnecessary.
Your problems may be complex, but your problem-solving process should be clear and simple. A scientific approach that objectively explains what happened and why (cause and effect) is sound. It’s the basis for understanding and solving a problem – any problem. It works on the farm, in the power plant, at the manufacturing company and at an airline. It works for the cancer researcher and for the auto mechanic. It also works the same way for safety incidents, production losses and equipment failures. Cause and effect doesn’t change. Just test it.
If you’re interested in seeing one of your problems dissected as a Cause Map diagram, send us an email or call the ThinkReliability office. We’ll arrange a call to step through your issue. You can also learn more about improving the way your organization investigates and prevents problems through one of our upcoming online webinars, short courses or workshops .
Want to learn more? Watch our 28-minute video on problem-solving basics.
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Problem solving techniques: Steps and methods
Posted on May 29, 2019
Constant disruption has become a hallmark of the modern workforce and organisations want problem solving skills to combat this. Employers need people who can respond to change – be that evolving technology, new competitors, different models for doing business, or any of the other transformations that have taken place in recent years.
In addition, problem solving techniques encompass many of the other top skills employers seek . For example, LinkedIn’s list of the most in-demand soft skills of 2019 includes creativity, collaboration and adaptability, all of which fall under the problem-solving umbrella.
Despite its importance, many employees misunderstand what the problem solving method really involves.
What constitutes effective problem solving?
Effective problem solving doesn’t mean going away and coming up with an answer immediately. In fact, this isn’t good problem solving at all, because you’ll be running with the first solution that comes into your mind, which often isn’t the best.
Instead, you should look at problem solving more as a process with several steps involved that will help you reach the best outcome. Those steps are:
- Define the problem
- List all the possible solutions
- Evaluate the options
- Select the best solution
- Create an implementation plan
- Communicate your solution
Let’s look at each step in a little more detail.
1. Define the problem
The first step to solving a problem is defining what the problem actually is – sounds simple, right? Well no. An effective problem solver will take the thoughts of everyone involved into account, but different people might have different ideas on what the root cause of the issue really is. It’s up to you to actively listen to everyone without bringing any of your own preconceived notions to the conversation. Learning to differentiate facts from opinion is an essential part of this process.
An effective problem solver will take the opinions of everyone involved into account
The same can be said of data. Depending on what the problem is, there will be varying amounts of information available that will help you work out what’s gone wrong. There should be at least some data involved in any problem, and it’s up to you to gather as much as possible and analyse it objectively.
2. List all the possible solutions
Once you’ve identified what the real issue is, it’s time to think of solutions. Brainstorming as many solutions as possible will help you arrive at the best answer because you’ll be considering all potential options and scenarios. You should take everyone’s thoughts into account when you’re brainstorming these ideas, as well as all the insights you’ve gleaned from your data analysis. It also helps to seek input from others at this stage, as they may come up with solutions you haven’t thought of.
Depending on the type of problem, it can be useful to think of both short-term and long-term solutions, as some of your options may take a while to implement.
3. Evaluate the options
Each option will have pros and cons, and it’s important you list all of these, as well as how each solution could impact key stakeholders. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to three or four, it’s often a good idea to go to other employees for feedback just in case you’ve missed something. You should also work out how each option ties in with the broader goals of the business.
There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.
4. Select an option
Only now should you choose which solution you’re going to go with. What you decide should be whatever solves the problem most effectively while also taking the interests of everyone involved into account. There may be a way to merge two options together in order to satisfy more people.
5. Create an implementation plan
At this point you might be thinking it’s time to sit back and relax – problem solved, right? There are actually two more steps involved if you want your problem solving method to be truly effective. The first is to create an implementation plan. After all, if you don’t carry out your solution effectively, you’re not really solving the problem at all.
Create an implementation plan on how you will put your solution into practice. One problem solving technique that many use here is to introduce a testing and feedback phase just to make sure the option you’ve selected really is the most viable. You’ll also want to include any changes to your solution that may occur in your implementation plan, as well as how you’ll monitor compliance and success.
6. Communicate your solution
There’s one last step to consider as part of the problem solving methodology, and that’s communicating your solution . Without this crucial part of the process, how is anyone going to know what you’ve decided? Make sure you communicate your decision to all the people who might be impacted by it. Not everyone is going to be 100 per cent happy with it, so when you communicate you must give them context. Explain exactly why you’ve made that decision and how the pros mean it’s better than any of the other options you came up with.
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7 Problem-Solving Skills That Can Help You Be a More Successful Manager
Discover what problem-solving is, and why it's important for managers. Understand the steps of the process and learn about seven problem-solving skills.
1Managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a particular department, and sometimes a whole company, using their problem-solving skills regularly. Managers with good problem-solving skills can help ensure companies run smoothly and prosper.
If you're a current manager or are striving to become one, read this guide to discover what problem-solving skills are and why it's important for managers to have them. Learn the steps of the problem-solving process, and explore seven skills that can help make problem-solving easier and more effective.
What is problem-solving?
Problem-solving is both an ability and a process. As an ability, problem-solving can aid in resolving issues faced in different environments like home, school, abroad, and social situations, among others. As a process, problem-solving involves a series of steps for finding solutions to questions or concerns that arise throughout life.
The importance of problem-solving for managers
Managers deal with problems regularly, whether supervising a staff of two or 100. When people solve problems quickly and effectively, workplaces can benefit in a number of ways. These include:
Increased job fulfillment
Satisfied clients or customers
Better cooperation and cohesion
Improved environments for employees and customers
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7 skills that make problem-solving easier
Companies depend on managers who can solve problems adeptly. Although problem-solving is a skill in its own right, a subset of seven skills can help make the process of problem-solving easier. These include analysis, communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and teamwork.
As a manager , you'll solve each problem by assessing the situation first. Then, you’ll use analytical skills to distinguish between ineffective and effective solutions.
Effective communication plays a significant role in problem-solving, particularly when others are involved. Some skills that can help enhance communication at work include active listening, speaking with an even tone and volume, and supporting verbal information with written communication.
3. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions in any situation. People with emotional intelligence usually solve problems calmly and systematically, which often yields better results.
Emotional intelligence and resilience are closely related traits. Resiliency is the ability to cope with and bounce back quickly from difficult situations. Those who possess resilience are often capable of accurately interpreting people and situations, which can be incredibly advantageous when difficulties arise.
When brainstorming solutions to problems, creativity can help you to think outside the box. Problem-solving strategies can be enhanced with the application of creative techniques. You can use creativity to:
Approach problems from different angles
Improve your problem-solving process
Spark creativity in your employees and peers
Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success
In today’s ever-growing and changing world, being able to think creatively and innovatively are essential skills. It can sometimes be challenging to step ...
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Adaptability is the capacity to adjust to change. When a particular solution to an issue doesn't work, an adaptable person can revisit the concern to think up another one without getting frustrated.
Finding a solution to a problem regularly involves working in a team. Good teamwork requires being comfortable working with others and collaborating with them, which can result in better problem-solving overall.
Steps of the problem-solving process
Effective problem-solving involves five essential steps. One way to remember them is through the IDEAL model created in 1984 by psychology professors John D. Bransford and Barry S. Stein [ 1 ]. The steps to solving problems in this model include: identifying that there is a problem, defining the goals you hope to achieve, exploring potential solutions, choosing a solution and acting on it, and looking at (or evaluating) the outcome.
1. Identify that there is a problem and root out its cause.
To solve a problem, you must first admit that one exists to then find its root cause. Finding the cause of the problem may involve asking questions like:
Can the problem be solved?
How big of a problem is it?
Why do I think the problem is occurring?
What are some things I know about the situation?
What are some things I don't know about the situation?
Are there any people who contributed to the problem?
Are there materials or processes that contributed to the problem?
Are there any patterns I can identify?
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2. Define the goals you hope to achieve.
Every problem is different. The goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving depend on the scope of the problem. Some examples of goals you might set include:
Gather as much factual information as possible.
Brainstorm many different strategies to come up with the best one.
Be flexible when considering other viewpoints.
Articulate clearly and encourage questions, so everyone involved is on the same page.
Be open to other strategies if the chosen strategy doesn't work.
Stay positive throughout the process.
3. Explore potential solutions.
Once you've defined the goals you hope to achieve when problem-solving , it's time to start the process. This involves steps that often include fact-finding, brainstorming, prioritizing solutions, and assessing the cost of top solutions in terms of time, labor, and money.
4. Choose a solution and act on it.
Evaluate the pros and cons of each potential solution, and choose the one most likely to solve the problem within your given budget, abilities, and resources. Once you choose a solution, it's important to make a commitment and see it through. Draw up a plan of action for implementation, and share it with all involved parties clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing. Make sure everyone understands their role for a successful conclusion.
5. Look at (or evaluate) the outcome.
Evaluation offers insights into your current situation and future problem-solving. When evaluating the outcome, ask yourself questions like:
Did the solution work?
Will this solution work for other problems?
Were there any changes you would have made?
Would another solution have worked better?
As a current or future manager looking to build your problem-solving skills, it is often helpful to take a professional course. Consider Improving Communication Skills offered by the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. You'll learn how to boost your ability to persuade, ask questions, negotiate, apologize, and more.
You might also consider taking Emotional Intelligence: Cultivating Immensely Human Interactions , offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera. You'll explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills common to people with emotional intelligence, and you'll learn how emotional intelligence is connected to team success and leadership.
Ready to start learning?
Join the Coursera Plus community and get unlimited access to over 7,000 courses, hands-on projects, and Professional Certificates on Coursera, taught by top instructors from leading universities and companies.
Tennessee Tech. “ The Ideal Problem Solver (2nd ed.) , https://www.tntech.edu/cat/pdf/useful_links/idealproblemsolver.pdf.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process, and Approach.
Problem solving is a fundamental life skill that is necessary for daily living at home, school, and work. Every day, we fix issues or problems without actually giving them any thought. For instance, let’s say you need to go to the store and it is raining. How do you behave? There are numerous options available. Walk while holding your umbrella. You can drive or take the bus if you don’t want to get wet. Choosing to go to the store another day or calling a buddy for a ride are both options. There is no one right way to handle this problem, and various individuals will approach it in various ways.
The process of detecting a problem, coming up with potential solutions, and taking the right action is known as problem-solving.
Why is fixing problems crucial? In addition to empowering, you in your personal life, strong problem-solving abilities are essential in the workplace. Employers frequently cite everyday issue-solving as essential to the success of their organizations in the current, rapidly changing global economy. Employees can utilize problem-solving to come up with useful and original solutions as well as to demonstrate their independence and initiative to employers.
Accurately identifying your Problem for Problem Solving:
If you’re considering what constitutes problem-solving and how critical it is to establish the nature of the problem. The relevance of the problem definition and some of the most effective approaches to its implementation will next be discussed. Knowing the true reason and the source of the problem is a requirement for any problem you try to solve.
This is due to the simplicity of identifying and resolving lesser issues. However, it is crucial to solving the issue or problem at the root while dealing with problems at the level of many companies. This is due to the fact that if the problem is not fully understood, it will never be completely resolved.
And this will continue to harm the business in a number of ways. The initiative for any of the problem identification techniques can be taken using several instruments. The 5 Ws, root cause analysis, and appreciation are a few of the instruments. It’s also crucial that you carefully analyze each of them from various angles.
This is due to the fact that the problem’s root cause—an exorbitant workload or a lack of training—might not always be apparent, which could have disastrous consequences.
Understanding how complicated the Problem is:
You must be aware that each problem will differ in its breadth and in the amount of time it will take to solve it as you go about doing so. This is due to the fact that every problem’s complexity varies. There are several tools and techniques available to determine the problem’s complexity. Following is a list of some of them:
- Cause & Effect Diagram
- Pareto Chart
- Swim Lane Chart
- Affinity Diagram
- Tree Diagram
- Relationship Diagram
- Scatter Diagram
- Control Charts
- Bottleneck Method
- 8D Problem Solving Technique
- PDCA Approach
- A3 Problem-Solving Technique
- 5Why Analysis
You can use any of these tools or in combination and techniques to determine the problem’s complexity after identifying the many contributing aspects. There are instances when what appears to be one large problem is actually a number of lesser ones.
This is when the drill-down method can really come in handy. It will divide the issue into more manageable chunks with ease and effectiveness.
8-Step Problem Solving Process
step 1: define the problem.
- What’s the Problem?
- How did you find the Problem?
- How long has the problem existed and when did it first discovered?
- Is there enough information at hand to contain the problem and stop it from moving on to the following stage of the process? If so, solve the problem.
Step 2: Clarify the Problem
- What information is available or required to adequately define or comprehend the issue?
- Is solving the problem right now of the utmost importance?
- Are there any further resources needed to define the problem? If so, inform your leader of the problem so they can find the appropriate resources and put together a team.
- Think about a lean event (Do-it, Burst, Quality Circle, CI Project).
- Make sure the problem is resolved and doesn’t go on to the following step in the process.
Step 3: Define the Goals
- What is your ultimate objective or ideal situation?
- What would you achieve if you solve this problem?
- What time frame is ideal for resolving this problem?
Step 4: Identify the Root Cause of the Problem
- Determine any potential root causes of the problem.
- Sort potential problems cause by importance.
- What details or evidence supports the root cause?
Step 5: Develop Action Plan
- Make a list of the steps that must be taken to treat the problem’s fundamental cause and stop it from spreading to other people.
- Give each activity a time limit and an owner.
- Status procedures to guarantee fulfillment
Step 6: Execute Action Plan
- Implement a plan of action to address the underlying issue.
- Verify the completion of the action.
Step 7: Evaluate the Results
- Data gathering and observation
- Have you achieved the objectives you set in stage 3? Repeat the 8-Step Process as necessary.
- Were there any unanticipated effects?
- Remove previously added activities that were added to contain the issue if it is fixed.
Step 8: Continuously Improve
- Find more chances to put the answer into action.
- Make sure the issue won’t recur and share the lessons learned.
- Repeat the 8-Step Problem Solving Process as necessary to generate additional improvements.
Many people are curious as to what problem-solving involves because of the complexity that is growing inside various companies. If you’re unsure of what problem-solving involves, this article will provide you with all the information you need to know.
This is due to the fact that it will not only inform you of some of the best methods for resolving various problems, but also the advice, resources, and strategies we have provided can be quite beneficial to anyone who needs to cope with a challenging problem.
You can further enhance your knowledge and skill in problem-solving tools and techniques by getting enrolled in Quality HUB India’s online learning portal at courses.qualityhubindia.com
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The four basic steps to problem solving are: 1. Define the Problem It's common to conflate symptoms of a problem with the problem itself. When understanding what the root of the problem is, be sure to ask the right questions. If you're problem solving in a workplace, get team feedback.
Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below. 1. Define the problem Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms.
The problem solving process typically includes: Pinpointing what's broken by gathering data and consulting with team members. Figuring out why it's not working by mapping out and troubleshooting the problem, and. Deciding on the most effective way to fix it by brainstorming and then implementing a solution. While skills like active ...
Here are the steps of a problem-solving process: 1. Defining the Problem The first step in the process is often overlooked. To define the problem is to understand what it is that you're solving for. This is also where you outline and write down your purpose—what you want to achieve and why.
Here are six steps to an effective problem-solving process: Identify the issues The first phase of problem-solving requires thought and analysis. Problem identification may sound clear, but it actually can be a difficult task. So you should spend some time to define the problem and know people's different views on the issue.
The goal is to create a list of possible solutions to choose from. The harder the problem, the more solutions you may need. Input: a goal; research of the problem and possible solutions; imagination. Output: pick-list of possible solutions that would achieve the stated goal. 3. Decide on a Solution aka What are you going to do?
Step 1: Define the Problem Differentiate fact from opinion Specify underlying causes Consult each faction involved for information State the problem specifically Identify what standard or expectation is violated Determine in which process the problem lies Avoid trying to solve the problem without data Step2: Generate alternative solutions
Here are the basic steps involved in problem-solving: 1. Define the problem The first step is to analyze the situation carefully to learn more about the problem. A single situation may solve multiple problems. Identify each problem and determine its cause. Try to anticipate the behavior and response of those affected by the problem.
7 Steps of Problem Solving Term 1 / 7 Define the problem Click the card to flip 👆 Definition 1 / 7 Clearly identify the problem. What issues are you trying to solve. Click the card to flip 👆 Flashcards Learn Test Match Created by Cecilia_Mroch Teacher Please list the seven steps of problem solving and describe each one. Terms in this set (7)
Click here 👆 to get an answer to your question ️ List the six steps of the practical problem-solving (REASON) process with a description of each step. utwsav utwsav 03/31/2017 Health High School answered List the six steps of the practical problem-solving (REASON) process with a description of each step. 2
Spend time elaborating on the problem, write it down, and discuss everything, so you're clear on why the problem is occurring and who it is impacting. 2. Ideate Once you have clarity on the problem, you then need to start thinking about every possible solution.
The first five steps of the 8-step process fall under the planning step, while steps six, seven and eight all correspond to the do, check and act steps. The eight-step process is a more detailed, methodical version of PDCA problem-solving, and converts a vague cycle into something a bit more specific and actionable.
Step 4: Identify Root Cause of the Problem Identify possible causes of the problem. Prioritize possible root causes of the problem. What information or data is there to validate the root cause? Step 5: Develop Action Plan Generate a list of actions required to address the root cause and prevent problem from getting to others.
Prepare and Plan: Collecting initial information from the team and preparing your approach to the process is a necessary first step.. Form a Team: Select a cross-functional team of people, one leader to run meetings and the process, and one champion/sponsor who will be the final decision-maker.. Describe the Problem: Using inductive and deductive reasoning approaches, lay out the precise issue ...
The 4 steps of the problem solving process Vision chasers don't admire the problem and ultimately decide that it can't be done. Instead, they begin the process of solving the 615 PhD Experts 9.9/10 Ratings
7 Steps of Problem Solving Step 1: Identifying the Problem The first phase of problem solving is based on proper identification of the problem. Ask yourself what the problem is. There could be many potential problems for an issue and without a proper approach; it can confuse you on how to start.
The Six-Step method provides a focused procedure for the problem solving (PS) group. It ensures consistency, as everyone understands the approach to be used. By using data, it helps eliminate bias and preconceptions, leading to greater objectivity. It helps to remove divisions and encourages collaborative working.
It has five steps with its own acronym, DMAIC: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. The first two steps are for defining and measuring the problem. The third step is the analysis. And the fourth and fifth steps are improve and control, and address solutions. 3 Basic Steps of Problem Solving
Instead, you should look at problem solving more as a process with several steps involved that will help you reach the best outcome. Those steps are: Define the problem List all the possible solutions Evaluate the options Select the best solution Create an implementation plan Communicate your solution
Answer: The six steps to practical problem solving process are: . Identification. Description Analysis of cause. Solution; Decision; Action; Explanation: Practical problem solving provides the opportunity to think of alternatives to respond to an unpleasant or unexpected situation that disrupts the normal course of life.. A problem is a situation capable of causing loss of control or imbalance ...
Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective …
Step 5: Develop Action Plan. Make a list of the steps that must be taken to treat the problem's fundamental cause and stop it from spreading to other people. Give each activity a time limit and an owner. Status procedures to guarantee fulfillment.