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8-step problem solving process, organizational effectiveness.
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Step 1: Define the Problem
- What is the problem?
- How did you discover the problem?
- When did the problem start and how long has this problem been going on?
- Is there enough data available to contain the problem and prevent it from getting passed to the next process step? If yes, contain the problem.
Step 2: Clarify the Problem
- What data is available or needed to help clarify, or fully understand the problem?
- Is it a top priority to resolve the problem at this point in time?
- Are additional resources required to clarify the problem? If yes, elevate the problem to your leader to help locate the right resources and form a team.
- Consider a Lean Event (Do-it, Burst, RPI, Project).
- ∙Ensure the problem is contained and does not get passed to the next process step.
Step 3: Define the Goals
- What is your end goal or desired future state?
- What will you accomplish if you fix this problem?
- What is the desired timeline for solving this problem?
Step 4: Identify Root Cause of the Problem
- Identify possible causes of the problem.
- Prioritize possible root causes of the problem.
- What information or data is there to validate the root cause?
Step 5: Develop Action Plan
- Generate a list of actions required to address the root cause and prevent problem from getting to others.
- Assign an owner and timeline to each action.
- Status actions to ensure completion.
Step 6: Execute Action Plan
- Implement action plan to address the root cause.
- Verify actions are completed.
Step 7: Evaluate the Results
- Monitor and Collect Data.
- Did you meet your goals defined in step 3? If not, repeat the 8-Step Process.
- Were there any unforeseen consequences?
- If problem is resolved, remove activities that were added previously to contain the problem.
Step 8: Continuously Improve
- Look for additional opportunities to implement solution.
- Ensure problem will not come back and communicate lessons learned.
- If needed, repeat the 8-Step Problem Solving Process to drive further improvements.
7 Steps to an Effective Problem-Solving Process
September 1, 2016 | Leadership Articles
An effective problem-solving process is one of the key attributes that separate great leaders from average ones.
Being a successful leader doesn’t mean that you don’t have any problems. Rather, it means that you know how to solve problems effectively as they arise. If you never had to deal with any problems, chances are pretty high that your company doesn’t really need you. They could hire an entry-level person to do your job!
Unfortunately, there are many examples of leaders out there who have been promoted to management or leadership positions because they are competent and excel in the technical skills needed to do the work. These people find themselves suddenly needing to “think on their feet” and solve problems that are far more high-level and complicated than they’ve ever really had to deal with before. Are there tools available to these people to help them solve the problem correctly and effectively? Absolutely!
Today, I am going to introduce you to the Seven Steps of Effective Problem Solving that Bullet Proof® Managers are learning about, developing, and implementing in their teams.
Step 1: Identify the Problem
What are things like when they are the way we want them to be?
This question helps you find the standard against which we’re going to measure where we are now. If things were going the way we want them to go, what does that look like? If this person were doing the job we want him or her to do, what would they be doing?
And then ask this important question: How much variation from the norm is tolerable?
Therein lies the problem. From an engineering perspective, you might have very little tolerance. From a behavioral perspective, you might have more tolerance. You might say it’s okay with me when this person doesn’t do it exactly as I say because I’m okay with them taking some liberty with this. Some other issue you may need 100% compliance.
Step 2: Analyze the Problem
At what stage is this problem? This helps you identify the urgency of the problem, and there are generally three stages.
The emergent stage is where the problem is just beginning to happen. It does not cause an immediate threat to the way business operates every day. It is just beginning to happen and you have time on your side to be able to correct it without it causing much damage to the processes it is affecting. The mature stage is where this problem is causing more than just minor damage. Some amount of damage has been done, and you need to jump on it immediately to fix it before it becomes a problem where the consequences may be greater, deeper, and more expensive if we don’t solve this problem fast.
The third stage is the crisis stage, when the problem is so serious it must be corrected immediately. At this stage, real damage has been done to company processes, reputation, finances, etc. that will have potentially long-term effects on your ability to do business.
Step 3: Describe the Problem
You should be able to describe a problem by writing it in the form of a statement and you should do it in 12 words or less, assuming it’s not a complicated, scientific problem. This way, you have clarity exactly what the issue is. Then, perhaps try distributing it to your team to ensure they agree that this is the root of the problem, that it makes sense, and everyone that is working toward a solution is working toward the same goal.
The most important question of all, when describing your problem: Is your premise correct?
Let me give you an example of what I mean. We’ve all heard – or read – the story of the engineer’s take on the old “half empty, half full” question. A speaker holds up the glass of water and asks if the glass is half empty or half full, a discussion within the group ensues, and you generally expect some sort of lesson in optimism, etc. from it. In this version, an engineer is in the room and answers, “I see this glass of water as being twice the size it needs to be.”
You see, sometimes when you are the one in charge of the problem, you tend to set the premise of the problem from your own perspective. But, that premise may not be accurate, or it may just need an alternate perspective from which to see it. If your premise is not correct, or at least incomplete, you are not fully understanding the problem and considering all the best options for a solution.
Step 4: Look for Root Causes
This step involves asking and answering a lot of questions. Ask questions like: What caused this problem? Who is responsible for this problem? When did this problem first emerge? Why did this happen? How did this variance from the standard come to be? Where does it hurt us the most? How do we go about resolving this problem?
Also, ask the most important question: Can we solve this problem for good so it will never occur again? Because an important aspect to leadership is coming up with solutions that people can use for a long-term benefit, rather than having to deal with the same problems over and over and over.
Step 5: Develop Alternate Solutions
Just about any problem you have to deal with has more solutions to it than the one that you think of first. So, it is best to develop a list of alternate solutions that you and your team can assess and decide which one will be the best for the particular problem. I often use the ⅓ + 1 Rule to create consensus around one – or the top two or three solutions – that will be best for everyone involved.
Then rank those solutions based on efficiency, cost, long-term value, what resources you have and that you can commit to the solution of the problem. Then, look at every one of those solutions carefully and decide what you believe to be the best solution to this problem at this time.
Step 6: Implement the Solution
Implementing the solution you decide on can include creating an implementation plan. It could also include planning on what happens next if something goes wrong with the solution if it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. Implementation means that everyone on your team knows and understands their part in making the solution work, that there are timelines for execution, and also that you have a system in place to track whether or not the solution has corrected the problem.
Step 7: Measure the Results
From your implementation plan in step 6, make sure you track and measure the results so you can answer questions such as: Did it work? Was this a good solution? Did we learn something here in the implementation that we could apply to other potential problems?
These seven simple steps will help you become a more effective, efficient problem solver in your organization. As you practice this process and develop the skills, these steps will become more natural to you until the point that you are using them without noticing!
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What Is Problem-Solving? Steps and Process
In our lives, there are a lot of problems revolving around us, but have you ever wondered what the problem-solving approach is for tackling these real-life issues to make our lives happier and easier. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that solving problems is the second most crucial skill that is needed by job-seekers. So, what are the approaches and steps you need to take care of for problem-solving? Let’s find it out.
Problem-Solving is the process of identifying and resolving issues or challenges. It is a critical life skill necessary for various industries and everyday life. It includes identifying the problem, collecting information, producing potential solutions, assessing the alternatives, and selecting the best option.
Effective Problem-Solving skills demand analytical thinking, creative thinking, and innovations to identify the best answer to an issue.
This blog aims to make you understand the various steps and processes involved in Problem-Solving, which will help you to effectively define, analyze, and resolve problems or issues systematically.
Points to be Considered:
What is Problem Solving?
Importance of problem solving, steps involved in problem solving, the problem solving models.
Watch this video to know about Agile Project Management
In the domain of project management , problem-solving is the process of finding solutions to challenges or difficulties. Problem-Solving is the process of finding solutions to challenges or difficulties. It helps determine the issue, examine the situation, come up with alternative solutions, and decide on the best way to proceed. Critical thinking, creativity, and good communication are all necessary for effective Problem-Solving to come up with a solution. Problem-Solving aims to identify a solution that addresses the issue and helps in its resolution.
Effective Problem-Solving is a valuable skill in both personal and professional life because it enables individuals and organizations to make smarter choices and come up with innovative solutions to challenges. It requires persistence, patience, and a willingness to learn from failures and successes.
Want to become an expert in Project Management, check out this Project Management Certification Course offered by Intellipaat.
The ability to solve problems is an essential life skill that is necessary for both the personal and professional worlds. It improves decision-making skills, increases productivity, and reduces stress. Here are some of the reasons why improving Problem-Solving skills is important for every individual:
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- Increases creativity- The process of Problem-Solving requires creativity skills, as it involves generating new ideas and approaches to challenges.
- Increases confidence- Successfully solving problems builds confidence and helps individuals feel more empowered to tackle challenges in the future.
- Improves critical thinking- Problem-Solving requires critical thinking skills, which help individuals analyze and evaluate situations, making them more informed decision-makers.
- Enhances teamwork and collaboration- Problem-Solving often involves collaboration, which helps build teamwork skills and strengthens relationships.
- Reduces stress- Effective Problem-Solving can reduce stress by providing individuals and organizations with solutions to challenges and resolving conflicts.
Preparing for jobs? Take a look at our list of the most asked Project Management Interview Questions !
It is important to remember that Problem-Solving is frequently changing procedures and sometimes there may not be an instant solution. In these situations, it could be required to return to the earlier Problem-Solving process, collect additional data, and come up with new ideas.
Effective Problem-Solving requires patience and a willingness to learn from failures and successes. Therefore, the steps needed to solve a problem can vary based on its nature; however, we will give you a basic idea about the Problem-Solving steps.
- Identify the problem- The first step in Problem-Solving is to clearly describe the issue and understand its scope and consequences. To achieve this, it is necessary to clearly define the issue that needs to be solved as well as its signs and fundamental reasons.
- Gather information- Once the problem is defined, the next step is to collect data and information relevant to the problem. This can include research, interviews, surveys, and other methods to understand the problem better and gather relevant information.
- Create solutions- The next step is to think of various approaches to the issue and discuss potential solutions. This may involve working with others to develop fresh ideas and viewpoints as well as taking into consideration of various Problem-Solving strategies.
- Evaluate solutions- Once possible solutions are generated, the next step is to evaluate them and determine the best course of action. This involves analyzing the potential outcomes of each solution, considering the resources and limitations involved, and selecting the best option.
- Choose the best solution- Pick the best solution and carry it out based on the evaluation. This calls for a detailed implementation plan that specifies the tasks to be performed, the required resources, and the timeline for completion.
- Check the results- The final step is to check the results and make any necessary corrections. This involves monitoring the solution’s progress, evaluating its impacts, and making any appropriate changes to ensure the best result.
Problem-Solving models are frameworks that provide a structured approach to identifying, analyzing, and resolving problems. There are several models to choose from, and each has its unique strengths and weaknesses.
- Scientific Model- The Scientific Model is an organized and practical method of Problem-Solving that includes observation, inquiry, formation of theories, testing, and evaluation of results. To create new information and technologies, this model is frequently used in the engineering and scientific fields.
- Design Thinking Model- The Design Thinking Model is a user-centered method of Problem-Solving that includes understanding the needs of the user, describing the issue, coming up with solutions, prototyping, and testing them.
This model is widely used in industries where user-centered methods are significant, such as product design, software development, and others.
- Creative Problem-Solving Model- The Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS) is a thorough method for solving problems, that entails describing the issue, generating ideas, creating solutions, and then putting those solutions into practice and assessing them.
This method is regularly used in industries including education, business, and other fields where creative Problem-Solving is important.
- Polya’s Problem-Solving Model- Polya’s Problem-Solving Model is a four-step method that involves analyzing the issue, coming up with a strategy, putting the plan into action, and assessing the outcome.
This model is popular in mathematics and science education and is seen as an easy-to-use but powerful method of Problem-Solving.
- Systematic Problem-Solving Model- This model is widely used in business and management to handle complex problems in a structured and systematic manner.
The ability to solve problems is a crucial one that may be used in both personal and professional situations. There are various Problem-Solving models, which we discussed above in the blog each having its strengths. The models used will depend on the nature of the problem and the particular circumstances.
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The goal of Problem-Solving is to find a solution that effectively resolves the issue successfully. It is our guidance to you that, always have an open mind, remain engaged, and be persistent in your efforts for the correct solution.
With time and practice, you will become a skilled problem-solver, who will be capable of tackling any type of complex challenge.
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What is the problem-solving process?
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Much of your day is spent subconsciously and consciously solving problems. It’s second nature to you. So much so that, when problems arise at work, you likely have your own methods of tackling them. But there will come a time when you encounter a problem and realize your methods for solving it don’t match the methods other people are using. Suddenly, your team or your business is facing a large challenge, and team members are pinballing in dozens of directions attempting to solve it, creating more chaos and prolonging the solution.
This is what happens without having a problem-solving process. A cohesive problem-solving process needs to be defined and must include identifying the problem, gathering potential solutions, deciding on one of them, and implementing that solution. Without agreeing on a specific problem-solving process, your company will struggle to choose a solution, lack innovative solutions from which to choose, and ultimately create more problems than it solves.
But a company that has standardized its problem-solving is able to be lean, rise to pivots in the market, and improve business value over time. We’ll teach you the components of problem-solving and give you techniques to implement a process in your own business.
6-step problem-solving process
While your preferred method for solving problems may involve more or fewer steps, these six components comprise the backbone of any good process.
1. Identify and define the problem
This step seems like the most basic but can actually be the most surprising part of the process. Without agreeing on what the problem is, there’s no way to actually fix it. And sometimes, it may appear that you have one issue when the root of the problem is something else entirely.
- Write down the problem. It’s not enough to just state it aloud.
- Get granular. List everything known about the issue, from when it began to how broad it is.
- List the problem’s cascading effect to understand how broad of an issue you face.
2. Generate possible solutions
Get brainstorming. Start talking. Think big.
- Narrow down your solutions to the best few.
3. Evaluate alternatives
Before settling on the solution, make sure that you’ve examined all angles.
- Widen the response base. Consider soliciting solutions from beyond your own team to gather a different perspective.
- Carefully weigh the options against each other. What are the risks of each? What are the benefits? Is there a clear winner?
4. Decide on a solution
- Prepare to back up your choice with metrics. Data goes a long way in getting stakeholders on board.
- Detail what you expect the solution to achieve. Why are you taking this approach, and what will the perfect implementation look like?
- Determine what success will look like with this solution. How will you measure it?
Consider using a decision-making matrix template (like the one below) to help with this step.
5. Implement the solution
This can often be the most difficult step. Implementing a solution involves change management and getting people on board with your solution.
- Consider communications. How will you get the message out broadly about this solution, how you chose it, and why it’s important? Being completely transparent about the process can help convince your broader team you’ve put considerable thought into all aspects of the solution, which increases trust.
- Figure out training around the solution, as well as any technical requirements. Will the solution need new software? Will it require a change in process? Outline all this in a single source of truth document that can be referred to often.
6. Evaluate the outcome
There’s a good chance your solution won’t go perfectly. And you may need to reevaluate it in the future. Periodically evaluating your solution is a valuable tool for improving over time and learning from past mistakes.
Tips for effective problem-solving
As you move through the problem-solving process, you may feel tempted to figure things out as you go, but that can end up wasting valuable time. Consider these tips before you begin so you can avoid missing the best solution.
Don’t jump to conclusions
It’s likely you’ll start the problem-solving process with a clear favorite solution in mind. You may even subconsciously start trying to convince others on your team of the correctness of your solution instead of allowing them space to develop their own solutions. That’s when sticking to the process works the best—it eliminates bias and encourages free thinking.
Get the right people in the room
This means doing some work ahead of time. Who has the right expertise, as well as the right authority to contribute solutions? Who’s particularly familiar with the problem? Gathering solution-minded people who have the correct understanding of the issue at hand will go far in problem-solving.
Design a thoughtful agenda
Ever been in a meeting that’s been a waste of time? That could have been because there wasn’t an effective agenda . The agenda should walk the team through the entire process and should be divided into time segments to keep things moving.
Techniques for developing solutions
In addition to all the above, here are three more problem-solving techniques beyond brainstorming.
This technique involves improving upon the solutions of others. After presenting the problem, allow each team member to come up with one solid solution and write it down. Then rotate clockwise and encourage the next team member to improve upon the solution that was presented. Continue rotating until all solutions have been improved upon.
A brainwriting template can help with this.
Infuse creativity into your process with this technique. The how-now-wow matrix progresses through obvious ideas that are easy to implement through original ideas that may need more effort to implement. This matrix frees up the mind and encourages creative thinking.
Impact and effort matrix
An impact and effort matrix shows where solutions fall on a scale of their impact vs. how easy they are to complete. This makes it easy for the team to see where there are some quick wins and where there are some high-impact solutions worth putting resources into.
Problem-solving isn’t going anywhere. The more comfortable you are with tackling problems, the more you’ll train your brain to think of creative solutions, but it all starts with understanding the process. Now that you’ve become more familiar with the problem-solving process, you can better lead your team through the steps, taking a systematic approach to finding solutions. The more you repeat this process, the easier it will be to develop solutions that make a real impact.
Try out this decision-making matrix template for the next problem you need to solve!
Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.
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General Problem-solving Process
The following is a general problem-solving process that characterizes the steps that can be followed by any discipline when approaching and rationally solving a problem. When used in conjunction with reasoning and decision-making skills, the process works well for one or more participants. Its main purpose is to guide participants through a procedure for solving many types of problems that have a varying level of complexity.
More importantly, the process is both descriptive and prescriptive. This means it can be used to look at past, present, and potential future problems and their solutions in a clear systematic way that is consistent and able to be generalized. At each step along the way to a solution, various types of research must be conducted to successfully accomplish the steps of the process and thus arrive at an effective solution that is viable. A description of research follows the problem solving process. In both the problem solving and research processes, good decision-making, critical-thinking and self-assessment is vital to a high quality result. At each step in the process, the problem-solver may need to go back to earlier steps and reexamine decisions made. It is this revisiting of earlier choices that make the process iterative and allows for improvement of the final outcomes.
Steps in the General Problem-solving Process
- Become aware of the problem
- Define the problem
- Choose the particular problem to be solved
- Identify potential solutions
- Evaluate the valid potential solutions to select the best one
- Develop an action plan to implement the best solution
Become Aware of the Problem
The first step of any problem-solving process is becoming aware. This awareness can be generated from inside or outside the individual. Many times the awareness is part of a stated task or assignment given to the individual by someone else. In other cases, a person can observe a specific problem or a clear gap in knowledge that they feel must be addressed. In the end, as long as a problem is perceived by oneself or others, awareness of this problem is achieved. However, the level of awareness and the research associated with this level is vital to the initiation of the problem solving process.
Define the Problem
After the problem is recognized, research is conducted. Initially, research must be done to help define the problem as well as identify the assumptions being made and determine the parameters of the situation.
In the end, the main purpose of this step is to evaluate the constraints on the problem and the problem solver to better understand the goals that are trying to be reached. Once these goals are identified, the objectives that must be attained in order to reach the goals can be specified and utilized to help narrow the scope of the problem. Once the goals and objectives are clearly understood, the problem to be solved can be selected. An easy way to think of goals and objectives is that goals are what you hope to achieve while objectives are how you will go about accomplishing the goal.
Just as research might have been the impetus for engaging in the problem solving process—it made the problem-solver aware—research is vital to the specification of parameters and assumptions. The heart of this step is the series of decisions made to narrow the scope of the problem made by the problem-solver. Parameters are those factual boundaries and constraints set by the problem statement or discovered through research. Assumptions by contrast are those constraints that the problem-solver sets without having incontrovertible factual backing for those decisions. A clear understanding of the assumptions being made when engaging in the process is important. If an unsatisfactory outcome is reached, it may be necessary to adjust these assumptions. Even if the final solution is arrived at, knowing one’s assumptions assists the problem-solver in explaining and defending their conclusions.
Choose Which Problem to Be Solved
Once a goal and set of objectives has been specified and the parameters and assumptions have been identified, it is necessary to choose a particular problem to solve. Any large problem can be broken into smaller problems that are in turn broken into even smaller problems to be addressed. Each problem is an achievable goal that consists of objectives. Each of these objectives is a sub-problem that must be solved first in order to solve the larger overarching problem.
There are many different reasons to choose a particular problem to solve. It is important to do risk assessment on the problems involved and examine why the problem is being solved. There are many reasons why a particular problem is chosen as the one to solve. For example, the problem might be the most important, most immediate, most far reaching, or most politically important at the moment. Whatever the choice, the individual or group must have clear reasons why they choose the problem to be solved.
Once the aspects of the problem are known, the problem must be phrased as a question that each solution can answer affirmatively. An example of a problem statement might be "How might I increase the use of problem solving techniques by college graduates of four year universities in America today?" This specific type of question has four separate parts: question statement, active verb, object, and parameters and assumptions.
The first part is the question statement which transforms the problem into a question to be answered. It takes the form "How might I" or "In what ways might I." If the process is being undertaken by a group, it should be phrased as we instead of I. At times, an individual or a group may examine an issue concerning a third party. For example, students may work on problems facing their institution or that must be handled by the government. In this case, the question might become, "how might our school," or "In what way might the United States government." In all of these cases, the object is to create a question that must be answered as well as specify the group who is designated to answer it. Each solution must then apply to that group and be able to be accomplished by them as well.
Next is the active verb or the action used to solve the problem. Some of the most useful of these active verbs are the ones that describe change without specifying an absolute end or any one action. For example: Accelerate, alleviate, broaden, increase, minimize, reduce, and stabilize. It is important to realize that the stronger the verb, the more difficult it might be to accomplish workable solutions. For example, it is easier to reduce crime than to eliminate it. Keep this in mind when choosing verbs because verb choice is vital to good solution finding. If necessary, two or more verbs can be used and should be separated by the following conjunctions: And, Or, or And/Or. To assist in the verb choice process, some active verbs are listed below:
Figure 2 is a list action verbs that can be used when formulating a problem statement.
The third part of the problem statement is the object of the sentence that relates to the problem being solved. The object states what is being acted upon by the verb to help solve the problem. Each solution must directly or indirectly affect this object. In our earlier statement, "How might I increase the use of problem solving techniques by college graduates of four year universities in America today?" the object is "use of problem solving."
Finally, the parameters and assumptions that are bounding the solution are listed. These help to focus the solutions that are generated. Though parameters are not necessary, they are often useful to help limit and focus the scope of the process. Be careful not to leave too broad a problem. Broad problems lead to a wide number of solutions that can be difficult to choose between and implement with weak or ineffectual results. At the same time, an overly narrow problem statement can lead to a small number of solutions that provide little useable results. In our example, "college graduates of four year universities in America today?" are the parameters. This is identified with the conjunction ‘by’ and is used to mark who should have the use of problem solving increased.
Once the problem statement is phrased properly, solutions can be generated. However, it is important to note that this statement might have to be modified as more research becomes available or as the remainder of the process is worked through. As the process is iterated, small modifications to the problem statement can be made and refinements in the scope and specificity accomplished through changes in the verb, object and parameters.
Identify Potential Solutions
Once the problem statement has been chosen, it is necessary to generate potential solutions. This is the most creative portion of the process. Even so, conducting research into existing solutions to the problem or similar problems is helpful to generate workable solutions. The main criteria for judging solutions in this step is simply whether or not they answer the problem statement with a ‘yes.’ At this point, it may also be possible to eliminate some solutions because they do not agree with commonly held moral and ethical guidelines. Even though not stated specifically, these guidelines are understood and assumed to be upheld when reviewing solutions. For example, a solution to global pollution might be to kill every human. This is obviously not a good solution even though it would give a ‘yes’ answer to the question of "How might we minimize global air pollution caused by humans?"
When working in groups, it is important to work together to generate solutions. Also, it should be realized that the solution process takes time depending upon the problem complexity. At this point, do not judge solutions for more than their ability to answer the stated problem questions with a "yes" because they will be evaluated more closely in the next step. Many times it is possible to use discarded solutions to develop new ideas for solutions. However, it is important to be able to distinguish between similar solutions. Saying the same thing in ten different ways may not be ten different solutions. Try to group similar solutions together. If all the solutions fall into one group, then perhaps the best solution is to implement that group with different variations for different cases of the problems. Just as there are many unique problems, the solutions to these problems are all unique and need to be adapted to the particular situations being discussed. This will be addressed in the last section of the problem solving process.
Evaluate the Valid Potential Solutions to Select a Best Solution
Once a list of potential solutions has been generated, the evaluation process can begin. First, a list of criteria for judging all solutions equally must be chosen. It is vital to eliminate personal bias towards particular solutions as well as to utilize a consistent set of criteria to evaluate all solutions fairly. For example: most cost effective, most socially acceptable, most easily implemented, most directly solves the problem, most far reaching effects, most lasting effects, least government intervention required, least limiting to development, or quickest to implement. It is important to have research and logical reasons for the criteria chosen as well as factual support for the rankings given to a particular solution for each criteria.
Once the criteria are chosen, they should be given a weighting. In most cases, all the criteria have the same weight. However, it is possible to give other weightings to criteria so that a particular factor is seen as more important. Many times, the cost, time to complete, or political nature of a project is more important than other factors and so that criteria may have a higher ranking than others used to judge.
Once the criteria are chosen and weighted, all qualified solutions must then be ranked. Two types of procedures for ranking exist. If the number of solutions is large, usually greater than ten, an independent ranking must be conducted to narrow the number of choices. Each solution is listed along one side of a grid and then given a score for each criteria from 1-5 where 5 is the highest (other ranges can be used). The rankings for the various criteria are then totaled and a score for each solution is reported. These scores are compared to create a subset of solutions that have the highest score.
If the number of solutions is initially small or the independent ranking has been conducted, the remaining solutions are placed into a grid with the criteria for a comparative analysis. Though all the solutions may be seen as good, the comparative analysis gives the best solution. The total number of solutions listed gives the range of numbers for each criteria. For example, if there are six (6) solutions, then the rankings will go from 1-6 with 6 being the highest. Each solution is ranked for each criteria in comparison to the other solutions for that criteria. However, within a criteria no two solutions can have the same number. If two are equal, the adjacent numbers should be added and then divided by 2. The result is then placed in the space for each solution. See the charts below for an example. If the question being asked was "How might we control development in order to preserve the integrity and character of the town of Bedminster?"
Sample Table of Potential Solutions
Figure A3. 3 is a list of the potential solutions to be evaluated.
Sample Table of Evaluation Criteria
Figure 4 is a list of the criteria to be used to evaluate the potential solutions.
Sample Table of a Comparative Analysis
Figure 5 is a comparative analysis of the solutions from the table in figure 6 based upon the listed criteria shown in figure 7 for the problem stated earlier. The values used for scoring range from 6 as most satisfies criteria to 1 that least satisfies criteria.
Once all the solutions are ranked for all criteria and the weighting is applied appropriately, the scores for each solution are totaled. The highest score is then the best solution. If two solutions are close in score then there may be two solutions that are equally as good but differ in their strong points.
It is important to remember that the criteria that are used to judge the solutions are reflective of the choices being made. Each criteria is a ruler or a gauge by which to measure an outcome. Different rulers will yield different results so be sure to choose the proper rulers as well as use them properly. In order to choose the correct ruler and interpret it in the correct way, it is necessary to understand many different disciplines and the tools they use. In the end, however, each individual must have good decision-making skills to choose and use criteria.
Develop an Action Plan to Implement the Solution
After selecting the best solution, it is necessary to give some thought to the way in which it might be implemented. Giving insight into funding, potential problems with implementing the solution, and the time frame of the solution is necessary for any workable solution to a problem. Not all solutions can be implemented. Unforeseen problems may arise as solutions are tested and put to work. Many times, unexpected resistance to solutions can be encountered. Other times, unacceptable results can require that another solution be used.
In some circumstances the problem may have been originally selected incorrectly, have been misunderstood, or have changed as a result of research or altered circumstances. In the end, mistakes happen and the action plan helps the problem solver be prepared for such eventualities. In any event, the action plan can be used to make others aware of potential problems that might be faced while putting the selected solution into effect. Even when solving a current problem, this process will automatically assist the problem solver in thinking of potential problems and thus assist in avoiding unwanted outcomes. Whatever the outcome, it is vital to understand that the choices made during this entire process rely upon research.