Don’t Just “Fix It!”: Solving Problems Effectively Through Problem Profiling

Problem solving and decision making is the heart and soul of most jobs and careers. Problems come in all sizes; major problems and daily nuisance problems. If solutions can be found and implemented with greater accuracy, it can prevent negative impact on the organization. Leaders and individual contributors that are good at solving problems are destined to prosper.

Many people fail to solve problems effectively because they don’t carefully analyze what went wrong, nor fully understand where future improvements can take place. If you are a fan of the NBC sitcom, Saturday Night Live, then you may have seen the recent skits about how “Oscar Roger’s” the Weekend Update’s Financial Expert strongly feels someone needs to quickly “fix” the current economic crisis.

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/update-thursday-part-2/742141
(start when there is 2 minutes and 16 seconds left).

When problems receive a quick Band-Aid® and aren’t given the attention justified to create and implement the right solution, it is likely because the person solving the problem said “fire, aim, ready” rather than “ready, aim, fire.” Like in the skit, many people hurry to fix the problem before doing their homework. Below are a few helpful tips from CMOE’s Problem Solving Workshop and Decision Making for solving problems more effectively in your organization.

  • Define the pattern and profile of the problem so you can track down the cause. The pattern allows you to compare what is actually happening with what should be happening or what the plan calls for.
  • Break the problem down into component parts. The better you understand the problem, the more accurately you will be able to solve it. A well-defined problem is half solved. Ask the journalist questions: “What is happening that indicates a problem? Who is involved in the situation? When is it occurring (process cycle, timing)? Where is it occurring (location, area)? How much is occurring (magnitude, trends)?
  • Define what should be happening by defining what is not happening. Draw comparisons. What is unique and different with the problem areas? What separates the problem from areas that are not affected? Describe the standard or plan against which you’ll compare the data. If you don’t have a comparison plan, describe your preferences, what would you prefer to see?
  • Gather the most specific detailed data available. Don’t accept opinions or conjecture. Carefully note assumptions when in doubt.

For more information about CMOE’s Problem Solving Workshop and Decision Making Workshop, visit https://cmoe.com/products-and-services/problem-solving-and-decision-making/

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About the Author

Cherissa Newton