Problem Solving Projects

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The four-step approach to solving problems that we mentioned at the beginning of this article will serve you well in many situations.

However, for a more comprehensive process, you can use Simplex, Appreciative Inquiry or Soft Systems Methodology (SSM).

We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks.

The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.

So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand, because there's a web of interrelated issues.

The good news is that there are numerous tools you can use to make sense of this tangled mess!A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is.Many of the tools in this section help you do just that.Many of these help you create a clear visual representation of the situation, so that you can better understand what's going on. To generate viable solutions, you must have a solid understanding of what's causing the problem.Using our example of substandard work, Cause-and-Effect diagrams would highlight that a lack of training could contribute to the problem, and they could also highlight possible causes such as work overload and problems with technology.help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on.At this stage, it's also important to ensure that you look at the issue from a variety of perspectives.The CATWOE checklist provides a powerful reminder to look at many elements that may contribute to the problem, and to expand your thinking around it.When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier.If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a problem statement that's really a solution instead.For example, consider this problem statement: "We have to find a way of disciplining of people who do substandard work." This doesn't allow you the opportunity of discovering the real reasons for under-performance.

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