• Mike Whiteman

Ten steps to effective problem solving

1. Break the problem down

Problems often start as broad and ambiguous challenges which are difficult and time consuming to solve. Make problems more manageable and deliver benefits quicker by breaking them down into smaller bite-sized chunks.

2. Prioritise

There will always be more problems to solve than time and resources to solve them. Focus first on problems with the greatest potential impact and that can be tackled most easily.

3. Involve the right people

Problem solving works best when leveraging multiple perspectives. Form a team of people who understand the problem, bring a different experience or who aren’t afraid to ask questions.

4. Write a problem statement

Lack of clarity about the problem can cause confusion and waste time. Minimise this risk by documenting the problem, its size and impact, before starting to tackle it.

5. Identify a Sponsor

Problem solving rarely goes smoothly. Find someone to work with the team who is passionate about solving the problem and is senior enough to remove potential blockers.

6. Ask why (a lot)

Benefits often aren’t sustained because teams treats the symptoms not the root causes of the problem. Ask why something is happening and use observations and data to validate that the root cause has been identified.

7. Look at the problem in different ways

Organisations are complex systems that comprise customers, processes, people, measures and technology. Use these different perspectives to explore potential root causes and identify solutions.

8. Be creative

People fail to identify novel solutions because they naturally focus on things they’ve seen or experienced before. Use the collective power of the team and different forms of stimulus look beyond the obvious solutions.

9. Test and learn

If too much time is spent refining an idea there is a risk that the problem will have changed before the solution is ready. Put ideas into practice quickly and use feedback from customer and employees to identify improvements or move quickly onto another solution.

10. Embed the change

Sustainability is a combination of the quality of the solution and the behaviour of the people who use it. Put as much effort into influencing behaviour as the technical aspects of solving the problem itself.

Find out more ……

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