Top 5 organizational trends in quality management – 2014 and beyond, dmaic process: the 5 phases of lean sigma, free ebook: top 25 interview questions and answers: quality management, what is six sigma: everything you need to know about it, six sigma certification: all you need to know in 2024, cost of poor quality: definition, types, benefits and examples, understanding takt time and cycle time vs. lead time, implementing the 5s methodology: the first steps toward workplace efficiency, the concept of zero defects in quality management, six sigma vs lean six sigma which certification to choose, what is problem solving steps, techniques, & best practices explained.
Table of Contents
Problem solving is the art of identifying problems and implementing the best possible solutions. Revisiting your problem-solving skills may be the missing piece to leveraging the performance of your business, achieving Lean success, or unlocking your professional potential.
Ask any colleague if they’re an effective problem-solver and their likely answer will be, “Of course! I solve problems every day.”
Problem solving is part of most job descriptions, sure. But not everyone can do it consistently.
The Problem-Solving Process
Problem solving is the process of defining a problem, identifying its root cause, prioritizing and selecting potential solutions, and implementing the chosen solution.
There’s no one-size-fits-all problem-solving process. Often, it’s a unique methodology that aligns your short- and long-term objectives with the resources at your disposal. Nonetheless, many paradigms center problem solving as a pathway for achieving one’s goals faster and smarter.
One example is the Six Sigma framework , which emphasizes eliminating errors and refining the customer experience, thereby improving business outcomes. Developed originally by Motorola, the Six Sigma process identifies problems from the perspective of customer satisfaction and improving product delivery.
Lean management, a similar method, is about streamlining company processes over time so they become “leaner” while producing better outcomes.
Trendy business management lingo aside, both of these frameworks teach us that investing in your problem solving process for personal and professional arenas will bring better productivity.
Learn Six Sigma and Get Upto USD 114600 PA
How to Solve Problems: 5 Steps
1. precisely identify problems.
As obvious as it seems, identifying the problem is the first step in the problem-solving process. Pinpointing a problem at the beginning of the process will guide your research, collaboration, and solutions in the right direction.
At this stage, your task is to identify the scope and substance of the problem. Ask yourself a series of questions:
- What’s the problem?
- How many subsets of issues are underneath this problem?
- What subject areas, departments of work, or functions of business can best define this problem?
Although some problems are naturally large in scope, precision is key. Write out the problems as statements in planning sheets . Should information or feedback during a later step alter the scope of your problem, revise the statements.
Framing the problem at this stage will help you stay focused if distractions come up in later stages. Furthermore, how you frame a problem will aid your search for a solution. A strategy of building Lean success, for instance, will emphasize identifying and improving upon inefficient systems.
2. Collect Information and Plan
The second step is to collect information and plan the brainstorming process. This is another foundational step to road mapping your problem-solving process. Data, after all, is useful in identifying the scope and substance of your problems.
Collecting information on the exact details of the problem, however, is done to narrow the brainstorming portion to help you evaluate the outcomes later. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unnecessary information — use the problem statements that you identified in step one as a north star in your research process.
This stage should also include some planning. Ask yourself:
- What parties will ultimately decide a solution?
- Whose voices and ideas should be heard in the brainstorming process?
- What resources are at your disposal for implementing a solution?
Establish a plan and timeline for steps 3-5.
3. Brainstorm Solutions
Brainstorming solutions is the bread and butter of the problem-solving process. At this stage, focus on generating creative ideas. As long as the solution directly addresses the problem statements and achieves your goals, don’t immediately rule it out.
Moreover, solutions are rarely a one-step answer and are more like a roadmap with a set of actions. As you brainstorm ideas, map out these solutions visually and include any relevant factors such as costs involved, action steps, and involved parties.
With Lean success in mind, stay focused on solutions that minimize waste and improve the flow of business ecosystems.
Boost Your Salary By Learning New QM Skills
4. Decide and Implement
The most critical stage is selecting a solution. Easier said than done. Consider the criteria that has arisen in previous steps as you decide on a solution that meets your needs.
Once you select a course of action, implement it.
Practicing due diligence in earlier stages of the process will ensure that your chosen course of action has been evaluated from all angles. Often, efficient implementation requires us to act correctly and successfully the first time, rather than being hurried and sloppy. Further compilations will create more problems, bringing you back to step 1.
Exercise humility and evaluate your solution honestly. Did you achieve the results you hoped for? What would you do differently next time?
As some experts note, formulating feedback channels into your evaluation helps solidify future success. A framework like Lean success, for example, will use certain key performance indicators (KPIs) like quality, delivery success, reducing errors, and more. Establish metrics aligned with company goals to assess your solutions.
Master skills like measurement system analysis, lean principles, hypothesis testing, process analysis and DFSS tools with our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training Course . Sign-up today!
Train to Solve Problems With Lean Today
Become a quality expert with Simplilearn’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt . This Lean Six Sigma certification program will help you gain key skills to excel in digital transformation projects while improving quality and ultimate business results.
In this course, you will learn about two critical operations management methodologies – Lean practices and Six Sigma to accelerate business improvement.
About the Author
Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.
Certified ScrumMaster ® (CSM)
Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
*Lifetime access to high-quality, self-paced e-learning content.
Agile problem solving techniques: PMI-ACP Agile Certification Training
Introduction to Machine Learning: A Beginner's Guide
Webinar Wrap-up: Mastering Problem Solving: Career Tips for Digital Transformation Jobs
An Ultimate Guide That Helps You to Develop and Improve Problem Solving in Programming
Free eBook: 21 Resources to Find the Data You Need
ITIL Problem Workaround – A Leader’s Guide to Manage Problems
Your One-Stop Solution to Understand Coin Change Problem
- PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
What Is Problem Solving?
You will often see beach clean-up drives being publicized in coastal cities. There are already dustbins available on the beaches,…
You will often see beach clean-up drives being publicized in coastal cities. There are already dustbins available on the beaches, so why do people need to organize these drives? It’s evident that despite advertising and posting anti-littering messages, some of us don’t follow the rules.
Temporary food stalls and shops make it even more difficult to keep the beaches clean. Since people can’t ask the shopkeepers to relocate or prevent every single person from littering, the clean-up drive is needed. This is an ideal example of problem-solving psychology in humans. ( 230-fifth.com ) So, what is problem-solving? Let’s find out.
What Is Problem-Solving?
At its simplest, the meaning of problem-solving is the process of defining a problem, determining its cause, and implementing a solution. The definition of problem-solving is rooted in the fact that as humans, we exert control over our environment through solutions. We move forward in life when we solve problems and make decisions.
We can better define the problem-solving process through a series of important steps.
Identify The Problem:
This step isn’t as simple as it sounds. Most times, we mistakenly identify the consequences of a problem rather than the problem itself. It’s important that we’re careful to identify the actual problem and not just its symptoms.
Define The Problem:
Once the problem has been identified correctly, you should define it. This step can help clarify what needs to be addressed and for what purpose.
Form A Strategy:
Develop a strategy to solve your problem. Defining an approach will provide direction and clarity on the next steps.
Organize The Information:
Organizing information systematically will help you determine whether something is missing. The more information you have, the easier it’ll become for you to arrive at a solution.
We may not always be armed with the necessary resources to solve a problem. Before you commit to implementing a solution for a problem, you should determine the availability of different resources—money, time and other costs.
The true meaning of problem-solving is to work towards an objective. If you measure your progress, you can evaluate whether you’re on track. You could revise your strategies if you don’t notice the desired level of progress.
Evaluate The Results:
After you spot a solution, evaluate the results to determine whether it’s the best possible solution. For example, you can evaluate the success of a fitness routine after several weeks of exercise.
Meaning Of Problem-Solving Skill
Now that we’ve established the definition of problem-solving psychology in humans, let’s look at how we utilize our problem-solving skills. These skills help you determine the source of a problem and how to effectively determine the solution. Problem-solving skills aren’t innate and can be mastered over time. Here are some important skills that are beneficial for finding solutions.
Communication is a critical skill when you have to work in teams. If you and your colleagues have to work on a project together, you’ll have to collaborate with each other. In case of differences of opinion, you should be able to listen attentively and respond respectfully in order to successfully arrive at a solution.
As a problem-solver, you need to be able to research and identify underlying causes. You should never treat a problem lightly. In-depth study is imperative because often people identify only the symptoms and not the actual problem.
Once you have researched and identified the factors causing a problem, start working towards developing solutions. Your analytical skills can help you differentiate between effective and ineffective solutions.
You’ll have to make a decision after you’ve identified the source and methods of solving a problem. If you’ve done your research and applied your analytical skills effectively, it’ll become easier for you to take a call or a decision.
Organizations really value decisive problem-solvers. Harappa Education’s Defining Problems course will guide you on the path to developing a problem-solving mindset. Learn how to identify the different types of problems using the Types of Problems framework. Additionally, the SMART framework, which is a five-point tool, will teach you to create specific and actionable objectives to address problem statements and arrive at solutions.
Explore topics & skills such as Problem Solving Skills , PICK Chart , How to Solve Problems & Barriers to Problem Solving from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.
Full version of Instagantt. Don't know what Asana is, or don't want to use it with Asana?
Instagantt for Asana
If you need to manage your Asana projects in Instagantt, this is your product.
A Complete Guide to know What is Problem Solving (Updated October 2023)
Everything happening in this world has its problems. This is because no system in this world has 100% efficiency. But this is not a big issue for the people who are prepared to deal with any kind of problem. The field that is heavily affected by the problems in the field of companies and organizations.
This is because a lot of employees are working in different departments under the same name. The problem for one employee or one department can cause issues for others. This is why the employees are given special problem-solving training. Here we will discuss what is problem-solving and some effective steps involved.
What is problem solving?
Problem-solving isa process of solving any kind of problem. This process is acted upon in some steps. These steps start from identifying the problem and determining the cause of the problem. After the problem and its cause are identified, the next step is to select alternatives for the solution and implement the solutions.
All of these steps are collectively known as a problem-solving process.
The basic steps involved in problem-solving.
As the problem-solving process comprises different steps that collectively help in getting id of the problem. So, here we will have a detailed discussion about the steps that are involved in problem-solving.
Defining the problem.
Defining the problem means that you are diagnosing the situation. This helps take the further steps for solving the problem. This is not just as simple as defining the problem. Here you take effective measures to keep track of the situation of the problem. Some of the most effective and easy to implement ways of defining the problem are listed below.
· Flowcharts of the process and the problem init.
· Cause and effect diagram.
With the help of these steps, you can easily identify the root causes of the problem. However, for these ways of defining the problem, you must involve the factual information and then compare the expectations to reality. Apart from this, you also need to stay focused on the root cause of the problem as eradicating this will be your main objective here.
To create a successful deduction for problem-solving in this step, you will first need to review different sectors of your system. Then you will have to evaluate things on the base of how something will affect the system.
Generating the alternatives.
Once you have gone through the first step, the next step will be to get the solution for the problem. It is in our psyche that once we think of an idea or solution, then we keep on thinking that it will be effective. But in reality, this will not happen every time and you will waste a lot of time coming up with another effective solution.
So, here the best thing to do is to come up with more than more solutions at a time. For this, you can do the following things.
· Take ideas from different employees.
· Mold your original idea according to different aspects of the problem.
· Think of other than one effective idea.
When you are going with a set of ideas for the backup, you will be very efficient in solving the problem. This is because if one idea fails, you can implement another one and this can be carried on until you have solved the problem.
Evaluating and selecting alternatives.
So, now you know that you have to come up with more than one idea, but how will you know if the ideas are effective or not. For this, you can easily evaluate the ideas that come up in your mind. This will help in filtering out only the best and the most effective ideas. Here is how this works.
· Will this solution be able to solve the specific problem without causing other problems in the system?
· Will all the people and stakeholders of the system accept the solution?
· Is the solution that I have come up with possible and easy to implement?
· Will the solution and the alternatives be in the constraints of the organization?
When you think of all the ideas and their alternatives, you will be very efficiently filtering out the ideas that do not seem to be working.
Implementing the solutions.
Now you are in the state where you have the ideas, the solutions, and the alternatives of these solutions. The only step left to get the problem solved is to implement the solution. This is also not a very simple step. Here are some things that you must include in this step to increase the efficiency of your solution.
· Involving others.
One of the best things to do is to involve others in the implementation of your solution. This will not only reduce the stress that you will have to bear. But this will also add other innovative ideas that come in their minds. This can be very helpful in making the solution to the problem better.
· Testing and expectations of the solution.
When you are implementing or you have implemented the solution, it is very important to keep constantly monitoring the solution and its working. For this, you can test the solutions’ working at different events. Testing the outcomes and comparing when with the expectations will also give you the idea of how well the solution is performing.
· Feedback system.
When you have implemented the solution, the role that you will play in the future will be lower than the role of other employees. So, you must take feedback after sometime. The feedback system will tell you about the feelings of people about your solution and its working. This will also help in improving the solution.
Some important things to consider in each of the problem-solving steps.
Above in the article, we discussed the significance of each step involved in problem-solving. Here we will discuss some additional things that you must be aware of. This is because they will not only make your problem-solving experience better, but they will also make your problem-solving techniques more efficient.
Knowing your problem in a good way:
If you are thinking about what is problem solving and how important it is to define the problem. Then we will tell you here the importance of defining the problem and some of the best ways to implement it. It is a must for solving any problem that you must know the real cause and the root of the problem.
This is because the smaller problems can be identified and solved easily. But when we are dealing with the problems on the level of different organizations, then it is very important to get rid of the problem from the start. This is because if the problem is not fully identified, then it will never be truly eradicated.
And this will keep on damaging the company in several ways. For the problem identifying methods we mentioned above, the initiative for any of the methods can be taken for different tools. Some of the tools are the 5 W’s, the root cause analysis, and appreciation. This is also very important that you consider each of them carefully from different perspectives.
This is because the cause of the problem could be an unreasonable workload or lack of training but if unidentified, this can be extremely bad.
Knowing about the complexity of the problem.
While you are solving any problem, you must understand that every problem will not have the same scope and the time required for every problem will be different. This is because the complexity of each problem is different. There are a lot of tools and methods to know about the complexity of the problem. Some of them are listed below.
· Affinity diagrams.
· Swim Lane diagram.
· System diagram.
· Flow charts.
· Bottleneck method.
After identifying different factors of the problem, you can implement any of these tools and this will tell you about the complexity of the problem. Sometimes a problem that seems to be a single problem is a collection of different smaller problems.
This is the point where the drill-down technique can be very helpful. It will easily and efficiently breakdown the problem into smaller parts.
Process of solving the problem.
So, there can be a case that the problem is very small, and it can easily be dealt with. But inmost of the cases, the problem is not that simple, and it is a collection of several complex problems related to different departments.
In this case, the head of the problem-solving team must take different members from different departments that will help in solving that problem using the tools, tricks methods, and tips we mentioned above.
With the increasing complexities in different organizations, many people are asking what is problem solving. If you are also uncertain about what is problem solving, then this will be the article that will tell you all about what is problem solving.
This is because it will not only tell you about some of the most effective techniques for solving different problems, but the tips, tools, and methods we mentioned here can also be very helpful for everyone in dealing with complex problems.
Ready to simplify your project management?
Start managing your projects efficiently & never struggle with complex tools again.
Something went wrong. Wait a moment and try again.
How it works
Join Mind Tools
Article • 4 min read
The Problem-Solving Process
Looking at the basic problem-solving process to help keep you on the right track.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself.
We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity. Some, such as the resolution of a serious complaint, require a significant amount of time, thought and investigation. Others, such as a printer running out of paper, are so quickly resolved they barely register as a problem at all.
Despite the everyday occurrence of problems, many people lack confidence when it comes to solving them, and as a result may chose to stay with the status quo rather than tackle the issue. Broken down into steps, however, the problem-solving process is very simple. While there are many tools and techniques available to help us solve problems, the outline process remains the same.
The main stages of problem-solving are outlined below, though not all are required for every problem that needs to be solved.
1. Define the Problem
Clarify the problem before trying to solve it. A common mistake with problem-solving is to react to what the problem appears to be, rather than what it actually is. Write down a simple statement of the problem, and then underline the key words. Be certain there are no hidden assumptions in the key words you have underlined. One way of doing this is to use a synonym to replace the key words. For example, ‘We need to encourage higher productivity ’ might become ‘We need to promote superior output ’ which has a different meaning.
2. Analyze the Problem
Ask yourself, and others, the following questions.
- Where is the problem occurring?
- When is it occurring?
- Why is it happening?
Be careful not to jump to ‘who is causing the problem?’. When stressed and faced with a problem it is all too easy to assign blame. This, however, can cause negative feeling and does not help to solve the problem. As an example, if an employee is underperforming, the root of the problem might lie in a number of areas, such as lack of training, workplace bullying or management style. To assign immediate blame to the employee would not therefore resolve the underlying issue.
Once the answers to the where, when and why have been determined, the following questions should also be asked:
- Where can further information be found?
- Is this information correct, up-to-date and unbiased?
- What does this information mean in terms of the available options?
3. Generate Potential Solutions
When generating potential solutions it can be a good idea to have a mixture of ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’ thinkers. In other words, some people who think laterally and some who think logically. This provides a balance in terms of generating the widest possible variety of solutions while also being realistic about what can be achieved. There are many tools and techniques which can help produce solutions, including thinking about the problem from a number of different perspectives, and brainstorming, where a team or individual write as many possibilities as they can think of to encourage lateral thinking and generate a broad range of potential solutions.
4. Select Best Solution
When selecting the best solution, consider:
- Is this a long-term solution, or a ‘quick fix’?
- Is the solution achievable in terms of available resources and time?
- Are there any risks associated with the chosen solution?
- Could the solution, in itself, lead to other problems?
This stage in particular demonstrates why problem-solving and decision-making are so closely related.
5. Take Action
In order to implement the chosen solution effectively, consider the following:
- What will the situation look like when the problem is resolved?
- What needs to be done to implement the solution? Are there systems or processes that need to be adjusted?
- What will be the success indicators?
- What are the timescales for the implementation? Does the scale of the problem/implementation require a project plan?
- Who is responsible?
Once the answers to all the above questions are written down, they can form the basis of an action plan.
6. Monitor and Review
One of the most important factors in successful problem-solving is continual observation and feedback. Use the success indicators in the action plan to monitor progress on a regular basis. Is everything as expected? Is everything on schedule? Keep an eye on priorities and timelines to prevent them from slipping.
If the indicators are not being met, or if timescales are slipping, consider what can be done. Was the plan realistic? If so, are sufficient resources being made available? Are these resources targeting the correct part of the plan? Or does the plan need to be amended? Regular review and discussion of the action plan is important so small adjustments can be made on a regular basis to help keep everything on track.
Once all the indicators have been met and the problem has been resolved, consider what steps can now be taken to prevent this type of problem recurring? It may be that the chosen solution already prevents a recurrence, however if an interim or partial solution has been chosen it is important not to lose momentum.
Problems, by their very nature, will not always fit neatly into a structured problem-solving process. This process, therefore, is designed as a framework which can be adapted to individual needs and nature.
Join Mind Tools and get access to exclusive content.
This resource is only available to Mind Tools members.
Already a member? Please Login here
Try Mind Tools for free
Get unlimited access to all our career-boosting content and member benefits with our 7-day free trial.
Sign-up to our newsletter
Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.
Leadership and Management
Improving Physical Health and Wellbeing at Work
10 Recruitment Mistakes
Mind Tools Store
About Mind Tools Content
Discover something new today
Using Stories to Inspire
Overwhelmed at Work
How to Use the Control Influence Accept Model
How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?
Boosting Your People Skills
What's Your Leadership Style?
Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead
Recommended for you
Evolving to Thrive in Complex Environments
Blanchard's ABCD Model of Trust Video
Business Operations and Process Management
Business Ethics and Values
Handling Information and Data
Self-Development and Goal Setting
Negotiation, Persuasion and Influence
Working With Others
Stress Management and Wellbeing
Coaching and Mentoring
Delegation and Empowerment
Developing Your Team