Merge's Blog

The key to problem solving is to define the problem first

When it comes to problem solving, leaders are apt to often leap directly to a possible solution without completely understanding exactly what the difficulty is.  After all, if you’re in a position of leadership, you probably got here because you have a track record of making decisions and getting things done, which means that you also have a natural tendency to fix it and move on.  This, even if the fix isn’t necessarily what is needed or wanted, or even worse, is more than is required.

Which is why effective problem solving requires you to step back and clearly define the problem first.  Ask yourself (and your team) these three key questions:

  • What is the intended outcome of the task or process that’s gone amiss?
  • Who cares about the outcome?  Do all your stakeholders have the same goal, or do their goals differ?
  • What criteria will people use to assess whether or not the issue has been rectified?

The answers to these questions (and the subsequent dialogue they will create) will help you define your problem AND move you light years forward in terms of ensuring that your efforts and focused, and that you don’t waste time, money and other resources.

So, what have been your experiences?  Do you have any other key questions that should be asked (and that I’ve missed)?  Do share!

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