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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 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.

7 Problem Solving StepsToo 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,


Focusing on opportunities created by the “problem”.


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For a more comprehensive explanation of the 7 problem solving steps, plus a wide range of tools to help you take them, go to our great-value e-guide: What’s the Problem.

This guide is designed to help you find the right problems then take steps to address them.

It will help you to:

  • Think about what you do when you don’t know what to do!
  • Define problem solving.
  • Solve the right problems.
  • Turn the 7 problem solving steps into a process.
  • Be creative in generating possible solutions.
  • Get to the root causes of problems.
  • Solve problems with groups and teams.
  • Find the best problem solving tool ever – a good question!


Where to go from here:


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