Sunday, February 16, 2014

To Solve a Problem, Make Sure it’s Well Defined

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” - Albert Einstein.

It may be obvious that you can't solve a problem that's not well defined. However, people often neglect this detail. The next time you think you're ready to go into problem-solving mode, consider the following:
Establish the basic need for a solution
Why does the problem need solving? Articulate the problem in its simplest and most basic terms. Focus on the heart of the problem and the desired outcome, not the solution. This clarifies the importance of the problem, and helps to identify the resources needed to solve it. Defining the scope of the problem is also important to set the priority for its solution.

Justify the need
Is the required effort aligned with the company's strategy? Explain why your organization should attempt to solve the problem. Understand if the effort to solve it is aligned with the company's strategy. It may be the case that an issue is perceived as a problem only because it is no longer aligned with the company's current strategy.

Give it perspective
What approaches have you or others already tried? Find out if there are already solutions to solving the problem that you can apply in this instance. Examining past efforts to solve the problem can save time and effort. In addition, determine if there are constraints on the solution that you must consider.

Write a problem statement
Take your answers to the above questions and write a full description of the problem you are seeking to solve and the requirements the solution must meet. This will establish a consensus on what the solution will be, the urgency, the effort required, and the resources required to achieving it.

Companies and staff need to be effective at assessing issues and tackling problems. Without the above steps, a company can waste time, resources and costs, miss opportunities, and pursue initiatives that may not be aligned with the company's goals.

David Schuchman

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