The Problem Solving Process
The context of problem solving
When problem solving stumbles, the most frequent cause is not in the problem solving effort itself, but rather in the critical steps that lead up to the problem solving. This section outlines those key activities:
After observing hundreds of problem solving efforts in a wide variety of settings, the most commoon "problem solving discussion" is actualy a debate over proposed solutions. In these results-oriented, fast-paced times, rarely do people step back and ask the critical questions: "Is this the right problem to solve?", or "Are we thinking about this in the right way?"
The questions are doubly important in organizations, where problems abound and the pressure for solutions is urgent. While it may seem prudent to start talking about solutions right away, the danger is that time, talent, money, and energy is wasted pursuing the wrong problem, or seeking solutions within the wrong framework entirely.
And so the organization has grown weary and cynical about the problem just as we finally find the right approach!
Keep in mind that these steps look more demanding in their definition than they are in practice. When a team is fluent in their use, critical steps may happen in a single sentence. Don't assume every phase translates into a meeting or a deliverable or a project phase. They may be just a short conversation.