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1. Problem solving is not just fixing things that are wrong or broken

It seems obvious, ‘problem solving is what it says on the tin – solving a problem’. That of course depends upon what your definition of problem is. In a business context the problem solving process should be applied to more than just fixing something that is wrong or broken and for that reason I prefer the definition ‘Problem solving is finding and implementing a solution that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be.’

A technical, broken / not working example is:

  • Starting  situation – ‘The machine tool has stopped working’.
  • Desired situation – ‘The machine tool is working’.
  • Find a solution to –‘How to fix the machine tool so that it is working correctly?’

However, given the wider definition the problem solving process should also be applied to business issues such as ‘How to remove 20% of cost from the order processing process?’ or, more strategically, ‘How to move from being a market follower to market leader in the XXX market?’

The examples given above (Broken machine tool, removing cost, and market strategy) cover the whole spectrum of problem solving techniques:

1. Machine Tool - typically a technical issue. In this scenario the focus is on analytical techniques to find the cause (often in this type of situation when the cause is known the solution is obvious), and implementation (applying the fix and follow up activities). Success of the programme is usually known immediately

2. Cost Reductions - this type of issue falls in the middle of the spectrum - some analytical techniques to understand the situation, analysis and the search for potential improvements (including some creative techniques / ideas), decision making for selecting the most appropriate solutions and implementation and installation of the changes. Success of the programme is usually known within a short time / defined timescale.

3. Market Strategy - some data collection and analysis of the current situation, creative techniques to generate many creative ideas to deliver differentiation and competitive advantage, decision making to decide the solution to be applied. Implementation, including the possibility of a creative approach to implementation for a sustainable competitive advantage. Success of the programme cannot be predicted in advance and may not be known for several years!

Having a strong process and knowing and applying the right techniques appropriate to the problem type and stages in the process are essential for success.

Seventy percent of business performance programmes fail to achieve the desired results. Applying a creative problem solving process to business performance issues improves results significantly.

For more information on Problem Solving and Decision Making Training and Team Facilitation contact:

Roy O'Neil

07958 614398

Problem Solving Training

3R Creative Solutions

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