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Example of a Problem Solving Process

Having a problem-solving framework enables you to have a planned and structured approach to solving a problem. It is especially important when what is at stake requires you to decide and act immediately.
This enables you to think more clearly, and allows you to have a directed approach towards your objectives and dealing with problems. It also helps you generate quality solutions, weigh things out better, take note of the successful solutions and minimize the problem from happening again.

* What are we solving for?

Objectives

Here we answer, what is our ideal outcome? These can be our goals, risk that we want to mitigate, errors that we want to avoid, or avoid to reoccur. This is also will be our definition of successfully solving the problem.

Constraints & Dependencies

These are factors or roadblocks that we need to identify that are stopping us from our desired outcomes. Let's say for example you are a plumber, your objective is to fix a leaking pipe, your constraints & dependencies probably be are acquiring the proper set of equipment and things for the job. Also, where will you buy it, and the availability of the things you are looking for.

Challenges

These are the factors that directly cause your problem or that are contributing to the increase of risk of the undesirable outcome occurring. This also deviates us from our desired outcomes. Let's say for example you cut yourself when you are cooking and you are bleeding and you need some medical attention. Your objective is for you to be fine. The challenge is to stop your wound from bleeding, and your constraint will be the availability of medical supplies to treat your wound.

Other variables

These are factors that might be indirect things to our problem, but it influences the problem. Such as certain things that affect us in implementing our solution optimally. For example, when you cut yourself when cooking, Other variables will be your emotions and composure. Your ability to stay relaxed and focus in an uncomfortable situation. These affect us in solving the problem.

* Generate Possible Solutions

Diagnose First, Then Prescribe

Giving a solution to a problem is like formulating an argument. When we prescribe a solution without first figuring out the nature of the problem, is like jumping to hasty conclusions fraught with fallacies and lapses in thinking. We will likely end up with a poor solution.

Like arguments, a solution should be founded on truth (or most likely to be true), available facts or good evidence, and valid & sound reasoning — to ensure its quality.

Questions generate answers easier than just trying to articulate something. When we are asked a question we can’t help but find solutions or resolutions to it. A question stimulate us to think more and dig into the matter better than describing a problem or prescribing a solution right away. Questions stimulate us to seek and identify, and prescribing stimulates us to form a resolution.

Solve the roots not the leaves

Sometimes what we thought of as problems are just symptoms, and they came about from strings of deeper issues. Let's say, for example, you have diabetes. Solving the problem by the leaves will be like taking medication and treating your symptoms and stopping there. Solving the problem by the roots will be like instead of taking medications when you are not feeling well, we take actions to the root cause, such as forming healthier habits, diet, and lifestyle.

Solving the problem by the roots is to break down the problem and identify its fundamental cause. Take action on solving it there rather than on its surface levels.

The 5 whys

The 5 whys method was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries. Toyota Motor Corporation still uses it today as a critical component of its approach to problem-solving. This method works by starting with the problem and keep asking “why” until you discover the root cause. This is a simple yet effective method to drill into the underlying cause of our problem. So we can identify and address them directly and avoid the problems from reoccurring.

* Challenge Our Solution

“ When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Sherlock Holmes

The purpose of this is to take an opposing view on your solution to have a preliminary test on our solution and try to take the mindset of exposing its deficiencies, and lapses in our judgment. So we can make the necessary adjustments early on, before having spent any resources such as time, money, and effort.

* Implement & Test Our Solution

Here we are to going to test our solutions and observe if the solution we generated holds up to our assumptions or expectations and see if it works.

Prioritize & Organize our steps

How do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time. Also, you can’t chase all the rabbits at one go. You have to break down your objectives into manageable tasks. We have to plan, set the direction, and order the sequence of our implementation and ensure our progress towards our objectives.

Look for key steps

We can hit several birds with one stone. We just have to aim properly and find their common point of contact and strike at the right time. After we determined the steps in our plan. Let’s find key steps to our plan which aim to increase our efficiency in our implementation. Find overlaps and commonalities in our steps, so we can capitalize on optimizing our steps toward our goal. For example, instead of having to do things in 3 steps, find an opportunity to make it in a single step.

Task organizer

This can be a calendar, task board, or whatever your weapon of choice. We need to have a mechanism to order things from chaos and have an accurate sense of where we are in the progress of our implementation.

Checklist

A simple notebook can get the job done. The checklist enables us to ensure that all required actions are performed without omission and in an orderly manner.

* Evaluate the Result

Here we observe and analyze our solution and the outcome to learn from it, regardless of whether it is a success or a setback. We’ll also take note of the properties of our solutions that worked and didn’t.

Determine the factors that resulted in our desired outcome happening and what contributed to the undesired outcome. We also want to identify variables that we can change or improve to achieve a better outcome.

Ask Questions:

The Whats

  • What we have learned?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What happened?
  • What can we improve?
  • What can we change?

The Hows & Whys

  • how did it succeed?
  • how did it fail?
  • Why did it succeed?
  • Why did it fail?
  • How did certain things happen?
  • Why did certain things happen?
  • How can we avoid the problem from happening again?

Key Takeaways

Here we take note of the most important learnings, most important caveats, conclusions, and things to avoid. This can serve as a reference and guidance to our ideation, implementation, and decisions in the future.

* Iterate on the solution ( or test other solution )

If a solution didn’t work or did not work well, let’s find an opportunity where we can make adjustments and incorporate newfound knowledge of what is not working and incorporate it into our solution. We can also see what characteristics from other solutions we generated that we can combine and come up with to make a more creative or more robust solution. Don't give up!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

- Thomas Edison

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