5 Steps to Make your Problem-Solving Process Easier
No matter what kind of job you have, the chances of a problem arising at some point is almost inevitable. If the problem isn’t taken care of immediately with proper action, it could potentially get worse. No one wants to be in a hostile work environment, so it’s crucial to be aware of how to properly solve an issue.
What is Problem Solving?
Before we can even begin to explain what problem-solving is, we need to define what a problem is. A problem is any type of disturbance from normality that is hindering progress. A problem can be time-consuming and energy wasting. They can be as little as a disagreement, to as big as a miscommunication that costs millions of dollars to fix.
One problem-solving technique is determining whether it prevents you from reaching your goal. No matter the issue’s size, it can be solved by identifying it, gathering possible solutions, choosing the best possible one, and implementing it. That’s commonly known as the problem-solving process. If a company neglects any problems in the workplace, they could potentially get worse and cause significant problems.
Problem-solving can be the difference between a business succeeding or failing. According to Forbes.com , some common barriers that will prevent companies from being successful problem-solvers include the inability to see a problem, lack of respect, and failure to include all parts involved with the problem, among others.
Problem-solvers need some specific skills, like being able to do research and make both rational and emotionally intelligent decisions. Risk management is another skill that’s imperative to making a successful decision. Your team should all be able to work together in the problem-solving process.
In fact, in 2013, the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a report claiming that 93 percent of employers agree, “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.”
Here are a few more problem-solving skills:
- Team building
- Effective communication
- Active listening
There are many benefits to problem-solving in an organization. For one thing, it creates a hostility-free environment that encourages everyone to speak their mind when a problem occurs. Resolving problems together as a team can foster team building. Problem-solving can also empower a workforce and make its members more confident. If an entire organization can problem-solve efficiently, they can spend their time more wisely.
5 Steps to Better Problem-Solving
Step 1: identify the problem.
As obvious as it may sound, the first step in the problem-solving process is to identify the root of the issue. However, the problem isn’t always easily identifiable and might require some extra analysis to get the source. One way you can identify a problem is by using Toyota’s “Five Whys” technique . In the event of a problem, ask yourself the five whys:
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll discover where the problem is coming from. If that isn’t enough, here are three steps you can take to better identify a problem:
Explore the situation : Expand on the problem to try to get to the bottom of it. If an individual is the problem’s source, try putting yourself in their shoes.
Draft a problem statement : Reduce the problem into the simplest of terms and put it down on paper. This can help you gather and organize your thoughts.
Try to answer the question : “Why is this current situation a problem?” Once you’ve boiled it down to one source, you’ll be able to better assess the situation.
Let’s use a coffee shop as an example. Say the coffee shop has slowly been losing business in the last quarter, despite being very successful in the past few months. The owner wants to better understand why they’re suddenly losing business.
First, they explore the situation and look at all the possible reasons for why this is happening. They look at their employees, their daily routines, and training procedures. They also observe the local competition and the regional factors, like the fact that they’re located in a college town.
After looking at every single possible reason, the owner figures out what’s causing the problem and writes it down: It’s the summer and most of their student clientele are away for the summer. Finally, the owner answers the question, “Why is this current situation a problem?” Then after further evaluation, they realize the problem is a limited market and that they must expand to get more business.
Step 2: Generate Potential Solutions
The next step is to create a list of possible solutions. Start by brainstorming some potential answers, either individually or in a group setting. The latter is recommended, because when you have more input, you get more perspectives that can lead to unique solutions.
Here are some other methods to create solutions:
Means-End Analysis : An artificial intelligence analysis that finds the best possible way of attaining a goal.
Plan Do Study Act Model : Also known as the PDSA Model. This is the shorthand version of the problem-solving method, where you start with planning, test the theory, study the results, and act based upon observations . This process is done several times.
Root Cause Analysis : This method is used to get to the root of the problem. Its four steps are to identify the problem, establish a timeline, distinguish between root causes and other factors, and create a cause graph.
Lean Prioritization Method : This method is created within a two-by-two matrix, with the X and Y-axis ranging from low to high. The X-axis is labeled as “effort”, while the Y-axis is labeled “value.” Inside the matrix, label the four squares with:
- And time sinks
Evaluate the problems and situations and put them in the appropriate categories to figure out where to focus your attention.
Step 3: Choose One Solution
Once a list of possible solutions has been made, it’s time to put your decision-making skills to the test. To find the best solution for the problem, analyze every possible resolution and decide which is best for your situation.
Before making a decision, consider the potential solution’s efficacy, practicality, timeliness, resources, and cost. Narrow your choices down with the process of elimination and with a risk manager’s input. Like brainstorming, choosing a solution doesn’t have to be done alone.
Step 4: Implement the Solution You’ve Chosen
Now that you’ve chosen a solution, it’s time to implement it throughout the necessary departments, areas, or people. On average, it takes about 66 days for a new habit to become automatic, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. In other words, change doesn’t happen overnight. To make a new change to any business, planning, patience, and persistence are all required.
Planning : Timing is everything. When a company implements a new strategy, they often take a lot of time to implement the new idea. Decide on clear goals, address any issues or possible obstacles, and create a plan. It’s also critical to practice proper communication skills across the entire organization so that everyone knows what’s expected.
Patience : Change is scary and not everyone is going to accept it, that’s why it’s important to stay patient throughout this process. Try implementing the plan little by little so that employees aren’t overwhelmed. Encourage each other and make sure everyone understands the intention behind this change, and that everyone is participating in making it possible.
Persistence : Continuous application and monitoring of these changes are crucial. Make sure all of your employees are practicing the changes every week so they become the norm.
Step 5: Evaluate Results
The final part of the problem-solving process is to analyze the results. This can be done after a couple of weeks, months, or years, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. It’s important to remember why this problem started in the first place and how it affected the company. Ask yourself any of the following questions to better evaluate results:
- Are any of our processes being interrupted by the previous problem?
- Have any new problems arisen since we started this process?
- Is there a possibility the issue can return?
- Is everyone aware of the original problem, the solution created, and why it was created?
- Do you need to change any policy, procedure, or personnel to avoid this from happening again?
Sometimes, it’s necessary to start the process completely over. To make the problem-solving process easier, it’s best to simplify the solution as much as possible. Try to focus on the solution rather than the problem. Be positive, open-minded, and willing to make the change. With enough practice, any problem can be solved.
Problems will always occur no matter what situation you’re in, so it’s important to know how to conquer them before they get out of hand. Do you want to learn more about the process of problem-solving and how you can apply it to fix your company’s issues?
You can learn about different strategies that will help alleviate any workplace problems in KnowledgeCity’s course on Problem Solving in 5 Easy Steps . Use this information to take control of any problems that crop up at work.
- About the author
- Latest posts
Thanks for this terrific article! I am a mentor to undergraduate students and I was researching problem solving philosophies, methodologies, and techniques. This was a perfect resource! I like the way that you provided practical examples and also provided various methodologies and systems for problem solving. I think that’s always good to provide people options as certain methodologies may be best geared for certain disciplines, industries, or situations.
I took special note of these key quotes:
“because the more input, the better, simply because different perspectives can lead to different solutions.”
“It’s important to remember why this problem started in the first place and how it was affecting the company.”
Thanks again for making this great information publicly available.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Join 80,000+ Fellow HR Professionals. Get expert recruiting and training tips straight to your inbox, and become a better HR manager.
- Skip to main content
- Skip to primary sidebar
- Skip to footer
The 5 steps of the solving problem process
August 17, 2023 by MindManager Blog
Whether you run a business, manage a team, or work in an industry where change is the norm, it may feel like something is always going wrong. Thankfully, becoming proficient in the problem solving process can alleviate a great deal of the stress that business issues can create.
Understanding the right way to solve problems not only takes the guesswork out of how to deal with difficult, unexpected, or complex situations, it can lead to more effective long-term solutions.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the 5 steps of problem solving, and help you explore a few examples of problem solving scenarios where you can see the problem solving process in action before putting it to work.
Understanding the problem solving process
When something isn’t working, it’s important to understand what’s at the root of the problem so you can fix it and prevent it from happening again. That’s why resolving difficult or complex issues works best when you apply proven business problem solving tools and techniques – from soft skills, to software.
The problem solving process typically includes:
- Pinpointing what’s broken by gathering data and consulting with team members.
- Figuring out why it’s not working by mapping out and troubleshooting the problem.
- Deciding on the most effective way to fix it by brainstorming and then implementing a solution.
While skills like active listening, collaboration, and leadership play an important role in problem solving, tools like visual mapping software make it easier to define and share problem solving objectives, play out various solutions, and even put the best fit to work.
Before you can take your first step toward solving a problem, you need to have a clear idea of what the issue is and the outcome you want to achieve by resolving it.
For example, if your company currently manufactures 50 widgets a day, but you’ve started processing orders for 75 widgets a day, you could simply say you have a production deficit.
However, the problem solving process will prove far more valuable if you define the start and end point by clarifying that production is running short by 25 widgets a day, and you need to increase daily production by 50%.
Once you know where you’re at and where you need to end up, these five steps will take you from Point A to Point B:
- Figure out what’s causing the problem . You may need to gather knowledge and evaluate input from different documents, departments, and personnel to isolate the factors that are contributing to your problem. Knowledge visualization software like MindManager can help.
- Come up with a few viable solutions . Since hitting on exactly the right solution – right away – can be tough, brainstorming with your team and mapping out various scenarios is the best way to move forward. If your first strategy doesn’t pan out, you’ll have others on tap you can turn to.
- Choose the best option . Decision-making skills, and software that lets you lay out process relationships, priorities, and criteria, are invaluable for selecting the most promising solution. Whether it’s you or someone higher up making that choice, it should include weighing costs, time commitments, and any implementation hurdles.
- Put your chosen solution to work . Before implementing your fix of choice, you should make key personnel aware of changes that might affect their daily workflow, and set up benchmarks that will make it easy to see if your solution is working.
- Evaluate your outcome . Now comes the moment of truth: did the solution you implemented solve your problem? Do your benchmarks show you achieved the outcome you wanted? If so, congratulations! If not, you’ll need to tweak your solution to meet your problem solving goal.
In practice, you might not hit a home-run with every solution you execute. But the beauty of a repeatable process like problem solving is that you can carry out steps 4 and 5 again by drawing from the brainstorm options you documented during step 2.
Examples of problem solving scenarios
The best way to get a sense of how the problem solving process works before you try it for yourself is to work through some simple scenarios.
Here are three examples of how you can apply business problem solving techniques to common workplace challenges.
Scenario #1: Manufacturing
Building on our original manufacturing example, you determine that your company is consistently short producing 25 widgets a day and needs to increase daily production by 50%.
Since you’d like to gather data and input from both your manufacturing and sales order departments, you schedule a brainstorming session to discover the root cause of the shortage.
After examining four key production areas – machines, materials, methods, and management – you determine the cause of the problem: the material used to manufacture your widgets can only be fed into your equipment once the machinery warms up to a specific temperature for the day.
Your team comes up with three possible solutions.
- Leave your machinery running 24 hours so it’s always at temperature.
- Invest in equipment that heats up faster.
- Find an alternate material for your widgets.
After weighing the expense of the first two solutions, and conducting some online research, you decide that switching to a comparable but less expensive material that can be worked at a lower temperature is your best option.
You implement your plan, monitor your widget quality and output over the following week, and declare your solution a success when daily production increases by 100%.
Scenario #2: Service Delivery
Business training is booming and you’ve had to onboard new staff over the past month. Now you learn that several clients have expressed concern about the quality of your recent training sessions.
After speaking with both clients and staff, you discover there are actually two distinct factors contributing to your quality problem:
- The additional conference room you’ve leased to accommodate your expanding training sessions has terrible acoustics
- The AV equipment you’ve purchased to accommodate your expanding workforce is on back-order – and your new hires have been making do without
You could look for a new conference room or re-schedule upcoming training sessions until after your new equipment arrives. But your team collaboratively determines that the best way to mitigate both issues at once is by temporarily renting the high-quality sound and visual system they need.
Using benchmarks that include several weeks of feedback from session attendees, and random session spot-checks you conduct personally, you conclude the solution has worked.
Scenario #3: Marketing
You’ve invested heavily in product marketing, but still can’t meet your sales goals. Specifically, you missed your revenue target by 30% last year and would like to meet that same target this year.
After collecting and examining reams of information from your sales and accounting departments, you sit down with your marketing team to figure out what’s hindering your success in the marketplace.
Determining that your product isn’t competitively priced, you map out two viable solutions.
- Hire a third-party specialist to conduct a detailed market analysis.
- Drop the price of your product to undercut competitors.
Since you’re in a hurry for results, you decide to immediately reduce the price of your product and market it accordingly.
When revenue figures for the following quarter show sales have declined even further – and marketing surveys show potential customers are doubting the quality of your product – you revert back to your original pricing, revisit your problem solving process, and implement the market analysis solution instead.
With the valuable information you gain, you finally arrive at just the right product price for your target market and sales begin to pick up. Although you miss your revenue target again this year, you meet it by the second quarter of the following year.
Kickstart your collaborative brainstorming sessions and try MindManager for free today !
Ready to take the next step?
MindManager helps boost collaboration and productivity among remote and hybrid teams to achieve better results, faster.
Why choose MindManager?
MindManager® helps individuals, teams, and enterprises bring greater clarity and structure to plans, projects, and processes. It provides visual productivity tools and mind mapping software to help take you and your organization to where you want to be.
The 5 Steps of Problem Solving
Problem solving is a critical skill for success in business – in fact it’s often what you are hired and paid to do. This article explains the five problem solving steps and provides strategies on how to execute each one.
Defining Problem Solving
Before we talk about the stages of problem solving, it’s important to have a definition of what it is. Let’s look at the two roots of problem solving — problems and solutions.
Problem – a state of desire for reaching a definite goal from a present condition  Solution – the management of a problem in a way that successfully meets the goals set for treating it
 Problem solving on Wikipedia
One important call-out is the importance of having a goal. As defined above, the solution may not completely solve problem, but it does meet the goals you establish for treating it–you may not be able to completely resolve the problem (end world hunger), but you can have a goal to help it (reduce the number of starving children by 10%).
The Five Steps of Problem Solving
With that understanding of problem solving, let’s talk about the steps that can get you there. The five problem solving steps are shown in the chart below:
However this chart as is a little misleading. Not all problems follow these steps linearly, especially for very challenging problems. Instead, you’ll likely move back and forth between the steps as you continue to work on the problem, as shown below:
Let’s explore of these steps in more detail, understanding what it is and the inputs and outputs of each phase.
1. Define the Problem
aka What are you trying to solve? In addition to getting clear on what the problem is, defining the problem also establishes a goal for what you want to achieve.
Input: something is wrong or something could be improved. Output: a clear definition of the opportunity and a goal for fixing it.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
aka What are some ways to solve the problem? The goal is to create a list of possible solutions to choose from. The harder the problem, the more solutions you may need.
Input: a goal; research of the problem and possible solutions; imagination. Output: pick-list of possible solutions that would achieve the stated goal.
3. Decide on a Solution
aka What are you going to do? The ideal solution is effective (it will meet the goal), efficient (is affordable), and has the fewest side effects (limited consequences from implementation).
Input: pick-list of possible solutions; decision-making criteria. Output: decision of what solution you will implement.
4. Implement the Solution
aka What are you doing? The implementation of a solution requires planning and execution. It’s often iterative, where the focus should be on short implementation cycles with testing and feedback, not trying to get it “perfect” the first time.
Input: decision; planning; hard work. Output: resolution to the problem.
5. Review the Results
aka What did you do? To know you successfully solved the problem, it’s important to review what worked, what didn’t and what impact the solution had. It also helps you improve long-term problem solving skills and keeps you from re-inventing the wheel.
Input: resolutions; results of the implementation. Output: insights; case-studies; bullets on your resume.
Improving Problem Solving Skills
Once you understand the five steps of problem solving, you can build your skill level in each one. Often we’re naturally good at a couple of the phases and not as naturally good at others. Some people are great at generating ideas but struggle implementing them. Other people have great execution skills but can’t make decisions on which solutions to use. Knowing the different problem solving steps allows you to work on your weak areas, or team-up with someone who’s strengths complement yours.
Want to improve your problem solving skills? Want to perfect the art of problem solving? Check out our training programs or try these 20 problem solving activities to improve creativity .
THIS FREE 129 SECOND QUIZ WILL SHOW YOU
what is your humor persona?
Humor is a skill that can be learned. And when used correctly, it is a superpower that can be your greatest asset for building a happier, healthier and more productive life. See for yourself...
you might also be interested in...
2013 Corporate Humor Award Finalists Announced!
The 2013 Award Finalists have been announced! Check out the finalists page for the summary recap, or see the full […]
5 Tips for Better One-on-One Meetings
Regardless of your feelings towards networking, it is a crucial part of being successful in any business–corporate, comedy, or otherwise. […]
How to Stop Hitting Snooze and Wake Up Early
One of my biggest challenges since graduating college has been learning how to sop hitting snooze and how to wake […]
22 thoughts on “The 5 Steps of Problem Solving”
very helpful and informative training
Thank you for the information
YOU ARE AFOOL
I’m writing my 7th edition of Effective Security Management. I would like to use your circular graphic illustration in a new chapter on problem solving. You’re welcome to phone me at — with attribution.
Sure thing, shoot us an email at [email protected] .
i love your presentation. It’s very clear. I think I would use it in teaching my class problem solving procedures. Thank you
It is well defined steps, thank you.
these step can you email them to me so I can print them out these steps are very helpful
I like the content of this article, it is really helpful. I would like to know much on how PAID process (i.e. Problem statement, Analyze the problem, Identify likely causes, and Define the actual causes) works in Problem Solving.
very useful information on problem solving process.Thank you for the update.
Pingback: Let’s Look at Work Is Working with the Environment | #EnviroSociety
It makes sense that a business would want to have an effective problem solving strategy. Things could get bad if they can’t find solutions! I think one of the most important things about problem solving is communication.
Well in our school teacher teach us –
1) problem ldentification 2) structuring the problem 3) looking for possible solutions 4) lmplementation 5) monitoring or seeking feedback 6) decision making
Pleace write about it …
I teach Professional communication (Speech) and I find the 5 steps to problem solving as described here the best method. Your teacher actually uses 4 steps. The Feedback and decision making are follow up to the actual implementation and solving of the problem.
i know the steps of doing some guideline for problem solving
steps are very useful to solve my problem
The steps given are very effective. Thank you for the wonderful presentation of the cycle/steps/procedure and their connections.
I like the steps for problem solving
It is very useful for solving difficult problem i would reccomend it to a friend
this is very interesting because once u have learned you will always differentiate the right from the wrong.
I like the contents of the problem solving steps. informative.
Leave a Comment Cancel Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Humor Persona - Main B2C
I make an effort to appreciate the humor of everyday life....
This question helps us further the advancement of humor research to make it more equitable.
Humor Persona - Template B2B
The Five-Step Problem-Solving Process
Sometimes when you’re faced with a complex problem, it’s best to pause and take a step back. A break from…
Sometimes when you’re faced with a complex problem, it’s best to pause and take a step back. A break from routine will help you think creatively and objectively. Doing too much at the same time increases the chances of burnout.
Solving problems is easier when you align your thoughts with your actions. If you’re in multiple places at once mentally, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed under pressure. So, a problem-solving process follows specific steps to make it approachable and straightforward. This includes breaking down complex problems, understanding what you want to achieve, and allocating responsibilities to different people to ease some of the pressure.
The problem-solving process will help you measure your progress against factors like budget, timelines and deliverables. The point is to get the key stakeholders on the same page about the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the process. ( Xanax ) Let’s discuss the five-step problem-solving process that you can adopt.
Problems at a workplace need not necessarily be situations that have a negative impact, such as a product failure or a change in government policy. Making a decision to alter the way your team works may also be a problem. Launching new products, technological upgrades, customer feedback collection exercises—all of these are also “problems” that need to be “solved”.
Here are the steps of a problem-solving process:
1. Defining the Problem
The first step in the process is often overlooked. To define the problem is to understand what it is that you’re solving for. This is also where you outline and write down your purpose—what you want to achieve and why. Making sure you know what the problem is can make it easier to follow up with the remaining steps. This will also help you identify which part of the problem needs more attention than others.
2. Analyzing the Problem
Analyze why the problem occurred and go deeper to understand the existing situation. If it’s a product that has malfunctioned, assess factors like raw material, assembly line, and people involved to identify the problem areas. This will help you figure out if the problem will persist or recur. You can measure the solution against existing factors to assess its future viability.
3. Weighing the Options
Once you’ve figured out what the problem is and why it occurred, you can move on to generating multiple options as solutions. You can combine your existing knowledge with research and data to come up with viable and effective solutions. Thinking objectively and getting inputs from those involved in the process will broaden your perspective of the problem. You’ll be able to come up with better options if you’re open to ideas other than your own.
4. Implementing The Best Solution
Implementation will depend on the type of data at hand and other variables. Consider the big picture when you’re selecting the best option. Look at factors like how the solution will impact your budget, how soon you can implement it, and whether it can withstand setbacks or failures. If you need to make any tweaks or upgrades, make them happen in this stage.
5. Monitoring Progress
The problem-solving process doesn’t end at implementation. It requires constant monitoring to watch out for recurrences and relapses. It’s possible that something doesn’t work out as expected on implementation. To ensure the process functions smoothly, you can make changes as soon as you catch a miscalculation. Always stay on top of things by monitoring how far you’ve come and how much farther you have to go.
You can learn to solve any problem—big or small—with experience and patience. Adopt an impartial and analytical approach that has room for multiple perspectives. In the workplace, you’re often faced with situations like an unexpected system failure or a key employee quitting in the middle of a crucial project.
Problem-solving skills will help you face these situations head-on. Harappa Education’s Structuring Problems course will show you how to classify and categorize problems to discover effective solutions. Equipping yourself with the right knowledge will help you navigate work-related problems in a calm and competent manner.
Explore topics such as Problem Solving , the PICK Chart , How to Solve Problems & the Barriers to Problem Solving from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.
- Mission Statement & History
- Community Partnerships
- Parent Helpline
- Parent Email Support
- Workshop Schedule
- Parent Coaching with Keri or Sadaf
- Parenting Blog
- Parenting Pamphlets
- Ways to Give
- How Your Donation Helps
- Career Opportunities
- Contact/Parent Helpline
5-steps to Problem Solving
Problem solving is another important life skill for parents and children alike. Here are the five steps that parents can follow to problem solve with their child (or their partner, relatives, coworkers and friends too!)
1. Define the problem.
In understanding and communicating the problem effectively, we have to be clear about what the issue is. Remember to focus on the behaviour instead of attacking the person.
2. Gather information.
What were the circumstances? What are the non-verbal messages being sent?
Who does it affect?
What behaviour is typical for the child’s age? Are your expectations reasonable?
3. Generate possible solutions.
Work together to brainstorm on all possible solutions. Do not judge whether the ideas are good or bad at this point.
4. Evaluate ideas and then choose one.
Decide which options you like and which you don’t like. After weighing the pros and cons of each, choose an option that you both feel comfortable with. Once a solution has been found to meet everyone’s needs while keeping everyone’s self-respect and self-esteem intact, then make a plan to follow through and do it. Put down a time-frame for action.
Did it work? If yes, great! Consider how your solution may be applicable to other different problems. Ask how the problem can be prevented from happening again.
What if it didn’t work? Go back to step one or try out the other possible solutions that you and your child made in step 3.
- Simon Fraser University, Dis2 #133, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6
- Phone : 778.782.3548
- Fax : 778.782.5846
- Email : [email protected]
- Website : www.informationchildren.com
Copyright (C) 2019. Information Children
- Career Advice
- Five Steps To Create a...
Five Steps To Create a Problem-Solving Process (Plus Tips!)
8 min read · Updated on August 31, 2023
Conquering workplace challenges fuses strategy and art
Sometimes, it can seem that obstacles are as prevalent as opportunities. When you're good at solving problems, though, you have the power to navigate issues with relative ease. In fact, problem solving is more than a skill - it's a tool that you can use to fuel career growth and success.
As an effective problem solver, you use innovative thinking, demonstrate leadership, and build resilience and confidence. Often, the people you work with come to trust that you're the person to go to when there's a challenge. This could be just the stepping stone you need to move into a leadership role .
Of course, problems range in complexity depending on your industry. But by having a five-step problem-solving process in place, you can enhance both efficiency and effectiveness. In this article, we'll explore tips to help you master the skill, strategy, and art of problem solving.
Identify, analyze, resolve, execute, evaluate
What's the definition of problem solving? It's quite simple. You have to come up with solutions to challenges or issues.
The first step to fixing any problem is recognizing that there is one. Then the trick is to engage with each step of the problem-solving process to incorporate analytical thinking , adaptability, and collaboration skills to build a framework for addressing challenges and driving positive outcomes.
Step 1: Identify
Identifying the problem may be simple, or it could be a detailed cognitive process that breaks the issue into manageable components. Either way, what you do during the identify step of the problem-solving process sets the stage for the next steps in problem solving.
Step 2: Analyze
Consider underlying factors and devise strategies. Here's where the art part of your problem-solving strategy becomes important. As you gather details about the problem, employ critical thinking to uncover the root causes and potential implications.
Step 3: Resolve
Once you have a thorough understanding of the issue, it's time to get creative. Develop some reasonable solutions that are aligned with the capabilities of your team and the mission, vision, and values of your company. Your problem-solving method could involve any one of the following - or even a combination of several:
Encourage your team to learn new technologies
Reallocate some resources
Restructure organizational elements
Draft new operating procedures
Implement brainstorming sessions
Step 4: Execute
After you've outlined the solutions and decided which ones you think will resolve the problem, it's time to put them into place. The execution phase is the bridge between theory and practice.
Translate the solutions into actionable steps that produce tangible results
Clearly communicate the actionable steps to the relevant stakeholders - your team, colleagues, or managers
Delegate tasks based on team member acumen
Empower those you delegate tasks to by fostering a sense of ownership
Track the progress of your solutions
Overcome challenges, including unforeseen obstacles and stakeholder resistance
Step 5: Evaluate
Just because you think you solved the problem doesn't mean you actually did. It's critical to double-check your work and make sure there are no hiccups. Here's a list of 10 evaluative questions you can work through, to ensure that your problem-solving solutions were impactful:
Did the solutions effectively address the root cause of the problem?
Do you see the desired results?
What impact can you see on your team or the company?
Has there been a noticeable enhancement in efficiency, productivity, or overall performance?
Have any unintended consequences or new challenges arisen as a result of the implemented solution?
Can the solution be sustained in the long term, or is it a short-term fix?
Have stakeholders, such as team members or customers, reported positive experiences or feedback?
Have the predefined performance metrics and goals been achieved or exceeded?
Are there any new aspects of the problem that emerged after implementing the solution?
Which aspects of the solution would you retain and which would you modify?
When you reflect on the outcome of your problem solving strategies, you not only validate the effectiveness of your approach but you can also find insights for continuous improvement and refinement for future endeavors.
Problem solving isn't just for leaders
Sometimes, it seems that only managers and senior executives can engage in effective workplace problem solving. That's simply not the case. It doesn't matter if you're a fresher who's just graduated college or someone with decades of experience, you can employ problem-solving techniques and become a master problem solver.
You've likely heard of hard skills and soft skills ; you may have even seen problem solving lumped in with other soft skills. There are three essential soft skills you'll need to be good at to solve workplace problems:
Let's start with a foundational problem-solving skill. Analytical thinking is something you'll use in every step of your five-step problem-solving process, from identifying the problem to coming up with and executing solutions and measuring the success of those solutions. Being able to analyze trends, anticipate shifts, and make informed decisions along the problem-solving path, you'll be assured of success.
A real-world example: Sally is a new graduate and has secured her first job. After a few days at work, she wants to start making a name for herself by identifying a dip in sales. She dissects the customer engagement data and finds there has been a shift in consumer preferences. She knows that a new targeted marketing strategy could re-engage customers and bring sales back up.
Toss aside any notions that the plans you set into place to solve a problem are set in stone. They're not! Being able to make course corrections to change outcomes is at the heart of being adaptable . This soft skill becomes more and more important every day because of how quickly things change in business. Technology advances, economic fluctuations come into play, and unforeseen global events can wreak havoc on the best-laid problem-solving solutions. Think about how adaptable people had to be a few years ago when Covid shut the world down – there were tons of never-before-faced problems that ultimately got solved.
A real-world example : John has been employed in the technology sector for a little over 20 years. He's achieved the coveted role of CTO and found himself overseeing a team that had to transition into remote work. Because he's kept up with emerging technologies and the latest trends, he sets up processes that allow his team to enjoy a seamless shift with minimal impact on productivity.
When you have a problem-solving project in front of you, you'll often have to get people involved to help you to execute the solutions you come up with. Effective communication , organizational synergy, and a harmonious fusion of experiences can lend fresh insights to problem solving.
A real-world example: Marcus is involved in a complex project involving supply chain optimization. He works with geographically-dispersed stakeholders of all levels and has become an expert at pooling together specialized knowledge to create holistic solutions.
How do great problem-solving skills affect your career goals?
Challenges in life and at work are inevitable; by aligning your problem-solving skills with your career goals, not only will you be able to overcome immediate challenges, but you'll also cultivate a powerful tool for your job search toolkit. When you're good at solving problems and can show that you're good at it through accomplishment statements on your resume, your career trajectory will likely be positively impacted. In fact, there are several success stories that prove the journey to excellence is marked by innovative problem solving. Here are just a few:
Elon Musk: Musk's SpaceX faced immense challenges in developing reusable rockets. His innovative, problem-solving approach led to breakthrough solutions, revolutionizing space travel.
Indra Nooyi: As the former CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi tackled the declining demand for sugary beverages by diversifying the product portfolio and focusing on healthier options, showcasing adaptability and strategic problem solving.
Nelson Mandela: Mandela's ability to collaborate across racial divides and negotiate solutions was instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa.
Grace Hopper: A computer science pioneer, Hopper's analytical thinking led to the development of the first compiler, revolutionizing programming.
An invaluable asset
As you progress in your career, your skill in resolving a problem will set you apart from the rest of the job-seeking crowd as an invaluable asset. Whether you're identifying opportunities for growth, addressing operational inefficiencies, or strategizing through crises, the ability to solve problems creatively and effectively can become one of the key drivers for the advancement of your career. Essentially, strong problem-solving skills empower you to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and carve a path of consistent achievement in your professional journey.
TopResume can help you to showcase exceptional problem-solving skills on your resume. Why not submit yours for a free resume review today, to make sure that you're giving this skill the prominence it deserves?
How to List Problem Solving Skills on a Resume
Divergent Thinking: Should You Include This Skill on Your Resume?
Higher Order Thinking Explained
Don't “Snowplow” Your Kids' Job Search — Set Them Up for Success Instead
What Kind of Job Candidate Are You?
Why December is the Best Time of Year to Look for a Job
See how your resume stacks up.
Share this article:
Let's stay in touch.
Subscribe today to get job tips and career advice that will come in handy.
Thanks! Career advice is on its way.
5 Steps to Problem Solving in the Workplace
Problem-solving is one of those skills that helps us in literally every area of our lives. While some people may be naturally “good” at it, that doesn’t mean it’s a skill that can’t be taught. With a bit of one-on-one coaching , anyone can work on their problem-solving abilities to better address the challenges they face at work, or anywhere.
A good place to start is L&D programs for soft skills training , with a focus on problem-solving. These programs typically incorporate communication skills as well, which is an integral component of resolving issues. There are many useful models and mindsets that one can adopt when confronting a challenge, as we will describe below.
What Are Problem-Solving Skills?
Before we define problem-solving skills, let’s first define “problem-solving”. At its essence, problem-solving lets you go from challenge to solution. In the context of business, a problem is a barrier to productivity, profit, or stability. Problem-solving skills allow an organization to mitigate, or even totally avoid, the effects of a problem.
Some people are born with natural problem-solving abilities. There are also organizations that believe that, unlike hard skills, it’s easier to hire such people instead of training them. But these companies need to realize that problem-solving skills training can be seen as a collection of other soft skills that can be developed, to some extent, in everyone.
The 5 Steps of Problem Solving
There are endless approaches to problem-solving – from Googling an answer to forming a permanent team to address recurring issues. One of the most popular problem-solving models is the IDEAL framework:
- Identify the problem
- Describe the outcome
- Explore possible strategies
- Anticipate outcomes and then act
- Look and learn
Keep in mind that IDEAL is not necessarily a linear process. The “look and learn” step actually means trying out the best of the “possible strategies” created in phase number three, usually by applying it to only part of an organization. If this idea is not effective, or if the company still wants to explore alternatives, other strategies can also be implemented.
What Skills Are Related to Effective Problem Solving?
Problem-solving skills cover several categories. Chances are that most employees are great at one, or more, of them. Working as a team translates into the ability to collectively address challenges. Of course, for organizations that encourage career growth/career development , employees should always be given opportunities to develop problem-solving skills.
To give you a better idea, let’s break down the list of problem-solving skills according to the IDEAL model we mentioned above:
Leadership. Not every problem is caused by external factors. Sometimes, something within the company is leading to difficulties, and that can result in office politics and the blame game. Speaking up, despite any pushback that you may receive, is the act of a leader. To build such confidence, employees need to receive leadership development opportunities.
Analysis. Cause and effect are essential to define in any problem-solution scenario. If you don’t really understand the issue, then your solution might be irrelevant. Those assigned to this task should have a strong background in research and data analysis. Organizational and industry experts might also contribute opinions, depending on the nature of the problem.
Creative thinking. There may be one best solution to every problem, but the difficulty of coming up with that solution is what the challenge is all about. This happens, in part, because most people tackle issues from a certain starting point, depending on their personality and work experience. Training in creative thinking encourages people to look at challenges from a variety of perspectives.
Teamwork. Actually, the best way to generate a bunch of problem-solving ideas is to work in a group. Building teamwork skills allows the group to formulate and evaluate solutions by getting everyone’s input. One of the classic methods of coordinating team problem-solving skills is with the Six Thinking Hats method .
Anticipate and Act
Critical thinking. Once all of those potential solutions are on the board, it’s time to narrow them down to something workable. In a way, critical thinking is the opposite of creativity; instead of coming up with all kinds of ideas, you need instead to choose the most viable. Working in a group is an ideal medium for this because every person will examine the solutions from their perspective. For example, a software solution might be proposed, but your finance person will explain why it’s too expensive compared to another option.
Decision making . It’s often up to one person to choose the top suggestion to implement. Of course, this is a leadership task, but it’s also an important element of improving problem-solving skills. The leader requires logic, the ability to prioritize, and good communication methods to explain to others – and even to themselves – why a certain path was chosen. These are leadership skills that every employee could use.
Communication. Major hurdles often demand detailed fixes and lots of people to handle them. Explaining such solutions requires effective communication skills from the top of the organization on down. In addition, the employees responsible for actual implementation must be able to explain complications that they foresee, and any issues that occur along the way. Quality communication skills training can equip your staff for all of these responsibilities, and in all the modes that might be necessary, from emails to group discussions.
Look and Learn
Talent management. All the communication in the world won’t help if your staff doesn’t have the implementation skills that they need. It’s often up to top performers to take care of vital projects, and if your problem-solution situation is critical, you’ll want talent ready to go. So it’s a wise move to prepare for crises in advance by developing your best and brightest through a talent management program. This is especially important when a threat might do serious damage to your organization. It’s during times like these that top employees start looking to jump ship. But employees who receive valuable development opportunities are much more likely to stay.
Measurement. The question here is, did we get it right the first time? Only a person familiar with measurement techniques can provide a meaningful answer. Deciding on the viability of your first-choice solution will probably depend on both numerical data and a qualitative explanation of what did/didn’t work. Perhaps the best measurement techniques will leverage people from different departments and a variety of standpoints. In this case, another management skill – running team meetings – can come in handy.
Why Are Problem-Solving Skills Important?
Don’t take our word for it. Problem-solving skills are near the top of the list for many organizations that are worried about the future. The World Economic Forum, in their most recent report , puts “complex problem-solving” in the number three position of their skills forecast.
Problem-solving is a fundamental aspect of everyday life, from home to work and everywhere in between. Employees with good problem-solving abilities can independently plan their tasks in an effective way and come up with practical solutions.
On a wider level, problem-solving skills allow companies to survive. Take HR/L&D as an example. With the incredible rate of skill obsolescence in the modern workplace, it’s a huge challenge to close skill gaps with programs that take minimum time, impart maximum benefit, and still don’t disrupt important work. Now, if only there was some kind of technology that could help there…
What Is a Problem-Solving Mindset?
There is a certain attitude towards crises that is a real asset when difficulties arise.
Some people embrace “challenges” instead of “problems”. This is an important difference. Those who are best at problem-solving enjoy the intellectual aspect of it. They put their emotions aside. Taking the fear out of dealing with serious issues allows us to be more open-minded, creative, and patient.
L&D courses for problem-solving are an excellent way to develop the proper mindset. Employees who have been trained by experts practiced the IDEAL method and dealt with problems while not under pressure, are in a pretty good position.
Another way to develop a problem-solving mindset is to attend organizational strategy meetings. This allows employees to see real-world problem resolution for situations that they thoroughly understand, instead of classroom hypotheticals, because the cases deal with their own workplace.
Examples of Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace
One of the greatest challenges in recent years was COVID-19 and its effect on businesses. It was truly a trial of problem-solving, and some companies turned it into a remarkable opportunity:
- Nike focused on selling direct to consumers through their branded stores and website; the result was an 83% increase in digital sales in 2020
- LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a French holding company known for luxury products, adapted its perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitizer; the move greatly increased its brand equity as a company that helps people
- Spotify became a content creator as it started making its own podcasts due to the drop in advertising revenue during Covid; the move led to a 24% jump in subscribers
Let GrowthSpace Solve Your L&D Problems
One challenge that many HR people know well is that of delivering effective L&D programs. Tailoring courses to the specific needs of employees – particularly if there are hundreds of them – is nearly impossible. Understanding their requirements, and then finding the right specialists to teach them, is often beyond the ability of manual approaches.
That’s why GrowthSpace has created a scalable, technology-based process for granular L&D initiatives. GrowthSpace’s talent development solution matches experts in precise fields to the exact skills that your employees need. Through our platform, we solve the problem of making your people better at problem-solving, rapidly and efficiently.
Professional Development Skills: The Essential Guide for Today’s Workplace
There’s a lot riding on professional development skills. They are necessary for…
Leapfrogging Your L&D Effectiveness: Four Strategies You’re Probably Overlooking
In today’s competitive business landscape, Learning and Development (L&D) programs are taking…
The Importance of Employee Professional Development Goals
“One should never stop learning”. To stop learning is to stop growing – and investing in employees growth is vital to business growth
More from Talent Development
In today’s competitive business landscape, Learning and Development (L&D) programs…
“One should never stop learning”. To stop learning is to…
Professional Development Topics, Ideas, and Activities: Things to Think About
When HR needs to administer professional development topics, ideas, and…
Get the latest news from Growthspace in your inbox
Book a demo.