This stage involves in detecting and recognizing that there is a problem, identifying the nature of the problem, defining the problem.
The first phase of problem solving may sound obvious but often requires more thought and analysis. Identifying a problem can be a difficult task in itself, is there a problem at all? What is the nature of the problem, are there in fact numerous problems? How can the problem be best defined? this should be by spending some time defining the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, this leads to the second phase.
Lateral thinking, is the ability to think creatively or outside the box as it is sometimes referred to in business, to use your inspiration and imagination to solve problems by looking at them from unexpected perspectives. Lateral thinking involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought and throwing away preconceptions.
Solving these problems involves both analytical and creative skills. Which particular skills are needed will vary, depending on the problem and your role in the organisation but the following skills are key to problem solving:
☛ Analytical Ability
☛ Lateral Thinking
☛ Logical Reasoning
You need to be able to:
☛ Problems can also be opportunities: they allow you to see things differently and to do things in a different way: perhaps to make a fresh start.
☛ Evaluate information or situations.
☛ Break them down into their key components.
☛ Consider various ways of approaching and resolving them.
☛ Decide on the most appropriate of these ways.
The last stage is about reviewing the outcomes of problem solving over a period of time, including seeking feedback as to the success of the outcomes of the chosen solution.
The final stage of problem solving is concerned with checking that the process was successful. This can be achieved by monitoring and gaining feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred. It is good practice to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that occurred.
This stage involves accepting and carrying out the chosen course of action.
Implementation means acting on the chosen solution. During implementation more problems may arise especially if identification or structuring of the original problem was not carried out fully.
Looking at the problem in terms of goals and barriers can offer an effective way of defining many problems and splitting bigger problems into more manageable sub-problems.
This stage involves a period of observation, careful inspection, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of the problem.
Following on from problem identification, structuring the problem is all about gaining more information about the problem and increasing understanding. This phase is all about fact finding and analysis, building a more comprehensive picture of both the goals and the barriers. This stage may not be necessary for very simple problems but is essential for problems of a more complex nature.
When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious and you do not need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier. So it follows that when you are taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand because there is a web of interrelated issues.
The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem is not its symptoms. For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work. However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training or an unreasonable workload.