We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them- Albert Einstein
Everyone faces problems. Sometimes simple and sometimes more complicated. Solving a problem is sometimes easy, sometimes difficult and many a times, seems impossible.
If you often find yourself in the situations where in, you are not able to resolve a problem effectively, then you need to revisit your approach towards problem solving.
This article will be more relevant to you and anyone who want to develop or enhance their problem solving skills. Note that problem solving not only require decision making ability and action taking, but it needs further efforts in other areas as well such as analyzing patterns and documenting the solution to avoid re-occurrence.
In this article, I am going through life cycle of a ‘complex’ problem and we will see a step by step guide to solve it satisfactorily.
I have based this article not only upon my personal learning per se, but also collated information from learning from my friends, colleagues , corporate life, software engineering and of course by gathering information from various people who are good at problem solving.
So let’s begin with the problem itself.
So, you have a problem.
A problem which could be troubling you since quite sometime now, or a problem which has suddenly appeared in your life . It could be related to your work, family , health or related to any other sphere of your life.
What’s important here is the problem is for you. It’s now you who is responsible to address and resolve it.
What would be your approach? Wouldn’t it be nice if you were made aware of a checklist or a flowchart so that you can deal with the problem much effectively and bring upon more pleasant results.
Here we go.
Step 1: Accept that you have a problem
This is really important. Lots of people don’t accept that they have a problem. Note that knowing that they have a problem and accepting that , both are different things.Knowing about a problem will make you aware, where as accepting that you have a problem initiates an action towards it.
When you don’t accept a problem, there won’t be action from your side. When problem is not acted upon in timely manner, it often grows and multiplies.
By denying that you don’t have that very problem, you are fooling anyone but yourself and allowing the problem to grow.
Step 2: Are there anyone else having the same problem and can they help you?
This is a step most of us underestimate. There are chances that some of your friends or colleagues or anyone for that matter could have experienced the similar problem that you are experiencing now.
Just ask them and most of the time, they might have already solved the problem and pass on the solution to you.
This might sound as common sense to ask someone’s help, but it works and saves your time and energy.
People don’t utilize this simple method.Rather , they push themselves hard to solve the problem themselves.
Step 3: Start with basics and fundamentals
People often resort to random guesswork when they face a problem. Upon not getting quick solution, they enter the panic zone too early and panic curtails their ability to explore other solutions and take the right action.
Instead, always start with basic investigations. Check that fundamentals are still right. Are there any clues that fundamentals are disturbed? It could be an issue with some vital parameters.
Let’s take analogy of doctor and his process of diagnosing a complex disease. A good doctor would always start with basic tests and go up further. Many a times, problems are found in basic tests itself. A timely treatment cures the disease.
Step 4: If basics are fine, then look for the trigger that caused the problem
Once you are certain that basic investigations didn’t reveal anything obvious, then you may look for triggers or clues that would have created the problem.
To find out the triggers, you need analyze the patterns with questions such as,
- Did I do anything different last week, last month or last year?
- Did I ignored a minor clue thinking that it might not be a big issue?
- Did anyone else did something different to a system over the period of few days or months.
- Is there any trail?
When you start comparing the standard behavior with changed behavior at granular levels, you will surely find a trigger or clue.
That’s nothing but the root cause of your whole problem.
Identifying the root cause is important than treating the problem itself. Because people often treat symptoms instead treating the root cause.
Now, since you have identified the root cause, it’s time to think about an appropriate solution.
Step 4: Look the problem from a various angles and come-up with an optimum solution
Coming up with effective solution doesn’t just requires an immediate action,but analyzing the impact of the solution.
- What happens after 1 week of your solution implemented, one year and so on.
- Is this the permanent solution?
- Will this solution affect other areas of your life adversely in any way?
Think about all these and once the solution seems appropriate, proceed to action.
Step 5: Take action
Take concrete action immediately. Don’t delay further. We already know that problem often multiplies itself if unattended.It’s only your timely action, that eliminates problem from the root and your goal should be to avoid the re-occurrence of the same problem.
Step 6: Document your problem solving process
Why you need to document ?
Because, by successfully diagnosing a problem and resolving it, you have found out a working way to resolve this particular problem.
Document the steps somewhere . Be it on paper, ipad , diary anywhere which is easily accessible.
Documenting creates a knowledge pool of working solutions for you. It enhances your wisdom. You gradually become a trusted source for expert advice.
Hope you enjoyed this lengthy article about whole life cycle of a problem and the steps that are involved in solving it successfully.
If you found value in it, please share this post with your friends and relatives.
Also, let me know what did you feel about this post by adding comments :-)
Till next time, take care.