Many people use experience and intuition to solve problems. Don’t wing it!
Structured problem solving is a systematic and analytical approach to identifying and resolving problems. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts, and using a step-by-step process to find a solution. This method can be applied to any situation, whether it's a personal or professional problem. Does it sound like common sense? It is.
Slow down, take a systematic and straightforward approach, and don’t let intuition take over.
There are several benefits to using structured problem solving. First and foremost, it allows you to approach problems with a clear and objective mindset. By breaking down the problem into smaller parts, you can identify the root cause of the issue and develop a targeted solution. This approach also helps you to avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions, which can lead to ineffective or short-term solutions.
The process of structured problem solving typically involves several steps:
Define the problem clearly and specifically. This involves identifying the symptoms of the problem and determining the desired outcome. For example, if a company is experiencing low sales, the desired outcome might be to increase revenue.
Gather information about the problem. This can involve conducting research, analyzing data, and speaking with stakeholders. The goal is to gather as much information as possible to gain a thorough understanding of the problem and its causes. Don’t assume you know everything–-often we learn a lot via the viewpoints of others.
Brainstorm. Identify potential solutions and don’t discount the out-of-the-box options. Nothing is a bad idea at this point.
Evaluate the solutions based on their feasibility, effectiveness, and potential impact. Remember that timelines, budget, and morale can make or break a project.
Develop an action plan. This involves selecting the best solution and developing a plan for implementing it. The plan should include specific tasks, timelines, and responsibilities. In addition, the plan should detail how the effectiveness will be evaluated: metrics, goals, timelines. This is a great time to flex those delegation muscles–you don’t have to shoulder the work alone!
Implement the solution and evaluate its effectiveness. This involves monitoring the solution and making adjustments as necessary. The goal is to ensure that the solution is sustainable and produces the desired results.
There are several tools and techniques that can be used to support structured problem solving. One common technique is the use of a fishbone diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram. This tool helps to identify the root cause of a problem by visually organizing potential causes into categories. Another tool that can be useful in structured problem solving is the use of a decision matrix. This tool helps to evaluate potential solutions based on specific criteria and assign a score to each option. This can help exclude bias and numerically rank solutions by effectiveness.
Structured problem solving is a powerful approach to identifying and resolving problems. By breaking down complex issues into smaller parts and following a systematic process, you can develop targeted solutions that produce real results. Whether you're facing a personal or professional challenge, this approach can help you to approach the problem with a clear and objective mindset and find a sustainable solution.