“A problem well-defined is half solved” says, John Dewey. We know that the rigor with which a problem is defined is the most crucial factor in finding a suitable solution. Last week I talked about creating agility in business and how agile methods will benefit your team morale and their productivity, the companies speed of change and decision-making processes.
Business leaders, entrepreneurs and owners are overwhelmed by the number of choices available, that they get stuck on the problem and cannot think through a strategy for finding their best options. The trouble is most organisations do not proficiently articulate the problem clearly and concisely.
Albert Einstein said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” So, this is critical! First, define the real problem you must solve. It is easy to get hung-up on the symptom and not dig deeper to find the root cause. If you solve a symptom the problem will persist.
It is important to focus on the need that is at the heart of the problem. Instead of jumping straight to a solution, defining the scope is as important as establishing a justifiable need to solve the problem. The what, why, who, when discovery questions are a good starting point. There is no point solving the wrong problem or solving the right problem in a way that has minor impact and waste resources.
For example, the solution to increasing the number of women on board was to set a target of 25%. The FTSE100 companies reacted by recruiting female non-executive directors. This is like a sticking a plaster without cleaning the wound. The effect this solution has had on the internal company culture is debatable, the number of women chief executive officers has only seen a marginal increase to 6%. Had the solution been different, then the impact could have been maximised, as it is the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report of 2014 estimates that it will be 80 years before there is parity of women on boards.
Solving a problem to have the biggest impact is about scoping out the problem as an opportunity and then solving to the root cause of the problem. In my example the problem was never that there are not enough female non-executive directors! Therefore, I promote a mindset of seeing problems as opportunities and the solution as creating maximum impact. Generally, impact does not come into the decision of finding the most suitable solution to create long-term value. Creating impact is the best investment in a value solution and the least cost in time and money.
The problem is not having a solution discovery process. It is hard to see the wood for the trees, business leaders, entrepreneurs and owners are time scarce and cluttered with the day to day noise of running the business and often jump to an easy solution without fully investigating the real problem and maximum potential impact. The answer is investing in a solution finding process, there is:
4D Problem Solving Process
- Define – the problem, issues, causes and not just the symptoms, consulting stakeholders.
- Discover – questioning, listening, scoping needs, feedback and analysis create opportunity.
- Dissolve – uncover and develop solutions and improvements for the biggest impact.
- Destiny – commitment to next steps (Agile) stated outcomes and desired impact engage organisation.
In applying a comprehensive solution finding process, the big, scary problems will become easily solvable. 4D Problem Solving Process delivers the greatest benefits focused on discovering business problems, creating opportunities and forming relevant solutions to maximise impact and achieve the business outcomes.
Symptoms are indicators or consequences of a problem, symptoms are not the problem defined. Solving a problem is easy if you can identify and define the problem from the series of clues with questioning, listening and analysis techniques. You must solve the problem to maximise impact.
The most robust solutions come through a collaborative process. It is important to involve stakeholders in your problem-solving and solution finding process, a challenger or mentor, suppliers, and of course your customers and employee; all have a valuable and unique perspective, which will ensure the problem is solved from a variety of perspectives and the opportunity analysis and solution is more robust.
Similarly, Business leaders, entrepreneurs and owners must become proactive in developing solution through the everyday business process to ensure when problems arise, there is an effective system in place to identify and resolve the problems to create opportunities.
There are many other Problem-solving or solution finding process such as:
- Eight Disciplines Problem Solving.
- Root cause analysis.
- The Six Sigma tool to process improvement DMAIC approach.
- GROW model.
The GROW model is used in coaching:
- G for a clearly defined GOAL or end-point.
- R for REALITY or current reality of where you are now, the challenge or issues.
- for OBSTACLES stopping reaching goal & OPTIONS -barrier to your progress.
- W for WAY Forward that converts the option into action the lead to your goal.
Every day in business there is a problem, so the mindset must be to proactively embrace a process of finding suitable solutions to maximise opportunities. I developed a 6-step continuous improvement process based on the GROW model. To grow any business, you must continue to innovate and continuously improve your ability to find solutions. If you can create opportunity that have the biggest impact, then you are creating clear competitive advantage for your business.
6 Step Continuous Solution Impact Model:
- Where do you want to be? This is not focused on an end-point rather a set intention or opportunity.
- Where are you Now? This is the base point to access the gap and identify all the active resources affected by the intention.
- What is stopping you? This identifies the challenges and blocks to your progress, enables honest conversations.
- What steps are you going to take? This evaluates all options you can use to close the gap, then decides on the preferred plan of action timescale & resource requirements.
- Where Now? Having taken action in to close the gap, this monitors the results of your action and reviews if the actions need adjustment to achieve the intended outcome.
- Where Next? Acknowledging success and failure is an important part of progress and learning, celebrating and communicating what did and will do next. Go to step 1 repeat process.
The decision to find the most suitable solution that creates the biggest long-term impact, is a process of continuingly reviewing and closing the gap, only then can you gain momentum on your intentions.
You can continue to evolve and improve using the guiding principal of finding and closing the gaps between where you want to be and where you are now? It is really the mindset of embracing problems as opportunity and create impact from the solution.