A Structured Approach to Problem Solving

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There are many ways to tackle a problem. There are the good as well as the mediocre approaches. Complex problems call for a structured approach. There are many reasons why a structured approach delivers better results:

  • A systematic review of issues provides consistency in sorting out causes
  • The planned assessment engages people who need to be involved
  • A disciplined approach ensures that essential guidelines and rules are followed
  • The steps offer a way to replicate success for similar problems in other areas

There are five components to the framework for structured problem solving.

  1. Understand the problem. This is the most important step in assessing the extent of the problem. By identifying the symptoms, root causes, impacts, and significance, you paint a picture on relevance and why the company should care. Without the understanding, it is difficult to assess how much effort the company should devote to solve the problem.
  2. Determine the solution requirements. The requirements establish the criteria for the solution. Subject to the availability of resources, the depth of a solution varies the level of automation and how eloquent it performs the task. The segregation of the must-haves and nice-to-haves provide choices when determining where to invest the capital.
  3. Articulate options. The options must satisfy the core requirements and address the most significant concerns. Keep an open mind in developing the options. Consult the customers, partners, and subject matter experts for an objective and impartial view on how things could be done better.
  4. Evaluate options. In order to do a proper evaluation of the options, there needs to be a well-defined list of assessment criteria. This list comprises all the factors that would be considered in comparing the options. These factors include capital investment, effort, return on investment, timeliness, and others that tie to the solution requirements. Often, weights are assigned to reach the relative importance.
  5. Select a solution. The final choice of a solution is made when the proper evaluation is complete. It is important to note that both the quantitative and the qualitative analyses need to be considered. Regulatory requirements that must be met would take priority. The decision maker needs to consider all the pertinent information and select a solution best suited for the problem.

A structured problem-solving approach places the focus on facts, issues, and solutions. This minimizes the tendency to play politics and coercion for support. It also promotes consistency when comparing alternatives in across the company.

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