7 Problem Solving Steps

In a minute!

7 Problem Solving Steps

In a minute!

These 7 problem solving steps provide a short outline of a process to help you solve problems effectively. A structured process helps ensure you stay on track but before you start, remember:

“Do not focus on finding an answer: focus on defining the question” Peter Drucker

Part of our manage in a minute series, read this article to gain a quick overview of the right steps for effective problem solving. We end the article with two principles that perhaps aren’t applied often enough when we set out to solve a problem.

You may also want to read our article: problem solving questions, which raises five challenging and provocative questions, based on this 7 step problem solving process:

1 Find the Right Problems to Solve

Too often our approach to problem solving is reactive, we wait for the problems to arise. Firstly in our 7 problem solving steps, we advocate taking a proactive approach, go and find problems to solve; important and valuable problems. The real starting point then for any problem solving process is to find the right problem to solve.

2 Define the Problem

It is very tempting to gloss over this step and move to analysis and solutions. However, like the first step, it is one of the secrets of effective problem solving. Combining problems that are valuable to solve, with defining exactly what you are trying to solve, can dramatically improve the effectiveness of the problem solving process. The secret to defining the problem, is really about attitude. Try to see every problem as an opportunity.

3 Analyse the Problem

Analysis is a process of discovery of the facts, finding out what you know about the situation. In doing so you are breaking down complexity, stripping away the superficial and getting to the causes/issues.

4 Develop Opportunities

There are always more than one way to solve a problem, so take time to develop plenty of creative possibilities to solve the problem.

5 Select the Best Solution

Selecting is about making choices, about deciding. To do this you need to weigh up the competing value and risk of the different options you generated in the previous step.

6 Implement

Good solutions are often only as good as the way they are implemented. Implementation requires project management and a determination to deliver the outcomes essential to solving the problem you originally defined.

7 Evaluate and Learn

You will have done some things really well through this seven step problem solving process. It would be all too easy to forget them in rushing to solve the next problem, or to implement the solution. You should evaluate at least two areas:

  • How you carried out the seven step problem solving process
  • The effectiveness of the solution you implemented. Did it deliver the outcomes you expected?

7 problem solving steps, 2 principles

This process provides a challenge to other problem solving techniques. It highlights the undervalued problem solving skill of applying two under-used principles, at the start of the process:

Finding the right problems to solve

and

Focusing on opportunities created by the “problem”

The eighth problem solving step

What's the Problem?Once you’ve read this article, turn the seven step problem solving technique into eight steps, with our great-value e-guide: What’s the Problem?! A comprehensive guide to problem solving, complete with these 9 essential tools:

  • Tool 1: When you don’t know what to do
  • Tool 2: Defining questions for problem solving
  • Tool 3: Finding the right problems to solve
  • Tool 4: Problem solving check-list
  • Tool 4a: Using the question check-list with your team
  • Tool 5: Problem analysis in 4 steps
  • Tool 5a: Using 4 Step problem analysis with your team
  • Tool 6: Questions that create possibilities
  • Tool 6a: Using the 5 questions with your team
  • Tool 6b: Putting creativity to work – 5 alternate questions
  • Tool 6c: Workshop outline
  • Tool 7: Evaluating alternatives
  • Tool 8: Creative thinking techniques A-Z
  • Tool 9: The 5 Whys technique
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