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Introducing the Five Step Problem Solving Process

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Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a business problem that you’re not sure how to solve?  This five step problem solving process is a great place to begin working through any business issue.

At one point I worked with a financial services firm and we had this really cool program that when we first launched it was doing really well, both from a customer stand point and from a financial stand point. The problem came up when all of a sudden all the financial numbers started tanking and everybody started freaking out. We didn’t know what was going on. And it was pretty important for me to solve it, because it was a program I was responsible for. So given the complexity of that problem, I used the five-step problem-solving process.

And the steps of the process are really simple and straightforward. In the first step, you pin the problem. You define what the issue is, what the goals of the stakeholders are, what previous efforts looked like, and you come out of that first step with a really clear definition of what the problem is. You can’t just rush ahead into solving a problem if you don’t know what the issue is.

Next, is identifying all the issues that could be contributing to that problem, because a lot of times at first glance you may say, “That’s the issue,” but you’ll find you go through the process from there, you’re really solving a symptom. So this step of creating a logic map helps you expand what all the possible issues are that are contributing to the problem from the first step, and what that will enable you to do is find the real root cause that you’re going to solve for.

The third step of the process is identifying your best guess. So once you have all those issues listed out, starting to identify small solutions that could solve each of those and then prioritizing your efforts because you don’t have time, and I don’t have time, to go out and chase every single one of these solutions.  So, this step is really about homing in on “That’s the one solution that seems like it could be the biggest and we’re going to chase that one first.”

The fourth step of the process is taking that one idea, that one hypothesized answer and then doing your analysis.  Because if your organization is anything like the ones I’ve been part of, you need a lot of data and a lot of support to take these big ideas and prove your case.  So this fourth step of the process is doing that analysis, getting that in-depth information to say, yes, that’s really what’s causing this and that is the size of the prize.

And then the fifth step of the problem solving process is taking that answer, turning it into a recommendation and pitching it to your stakeholders, because you have to convince people that this is the right answer and the resources I’m asking for to go out and solve it are resources you should give me because I’ve proven my case. So with that previously mentioned financial services firm we walked through that five step problem solving process. We found the root cause, we found what the issue really was, and it wasn’t what we initially thought. And we were able to prove that case with analysis, make the recommendation to our stakeholders, and make the required changes.  Financial performance turned around and everybody was happy with the result because we used that five step process. So as I go through this course what I recommend is you pick a business problem you’re trying to solve. Pick something you haven’t been able to crack before, something that’s ambiguous and confusing, and then apply the five steps of the problem solving process to your problem. And hopefully on the back end you’ll come out with a clear, concise recommendation that’s really going to be the solution.

Want to learn more about the five step problem solving process that you can apply to any business? Check out the video below  or you can go directly to the course and start learning how to improve all different aspects of your business every week. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy!

Introducing the five-step problem-solving process from Solving Business Problems by Mike Figliuolo

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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