Problem Solving or Thinking Process?

I’ve been spending some time lately working on improving our ability to solve problems, specifically developing a more structured problem solving method, including root cause analysis. Historically we have used problem solving and root cause analysis to, well, solve problems. But one thing we need to realize is that it can also be used to create opportunities. Here’s an example:

While in one of our outstanding facilities a few weeks ago, I listened intently as the leadership team proposed a way to increase their census. As they went through their presentation, it occurred to me that they had not thought through the solution to verify that it would indeed increase census. They were simply guessing at the solution they “felt” would work. When pressed for more data on what led them to this conclusion, they quickly realized they needed to go back to the drawing board.

How often do we do this? Just jump to a solution because it “feels good” or we “think” it will work, when we may not even understand the problem we are trying to solve?

To prevent this, one of the first things we need to do is make sure we clearly understand what we are trying to accomplish.  We need to ask, “What is our purpose?” Once this is determined, we can use a thinking process to work through the issue and solve the problem or create the opportunity. For example, the following is a simple 8-step method that can be used to think through any problem or opportunity:

  1. Clarify/understand the problem
  2. Define the current situation
  3. Set a goal/target
  4. Perform root cause analysis
  5. Provide recommendations
  6. Develop an implementation plan
  7. Follow up
  8. Share the results with others

The depth of each step will vary with the issue being resolved, but it is critical to note the importance of Steps 1 & 2: To clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve (or opportunity you are trying to create) and the current situation.

Using this process can take a little more time than just jumping in, but it will produce better, more sustainable results.

If you want to know more, drop me a line!

Until next time,



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