Step 1: Get to know what the task is
In fact, regardless of the specific task, the ability to identify and eliminate problems is a key skill.
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Often it is not so obvious what the actual problem is. Many people make the mistake and react too fast - "Ah, that's the problem, let's do XY."
At first, pauses would be good. It is necessary to recognize the real problem. For example, your problem might be the decision between two employees for the project leader's position. At the core, however, this is not a question of personnel, but the question of how the project can be processed quickly, economically and successfully.
The Five-Time-Why Method
A very helpful way to identify the actual problem is the "five-times-why-method." The Japanese Kaizen philosophy assumes that the cause of a problem can never be found out by asking yourself once.
Often it is - as just said - very different reasons that lead to problems, as one would assume at first. Experience has shown that you have to ask about five times why, until you get to the root cause of the problem.
And only then can you find lasting solutions. So ask like a toddler several times "Why?" - sometimes it only takes three questions, sometimes you'll have to ask six times.
Another way to capture problems is to ask "circular questions". This method actually comes from systemic psychotherapy and is often used to solve discussion blocks; but it can also help solve business problems. The principle is simple: Instead of asking yourself, "What is our problem?", You transfer yourself to other people.
For example, you are looking for answers to questions such as: "How would our customers present the problem?" Or: "What are we doing wrong in the eyes of the sales force?" This "multi-spectacle principle" changes the perspective and helps you to give new perspectives to a problem wrest.
Step 2: Determine the value of the problem
You now know what the real problem is. Before you use your creative energy for analysis and solution, you should determine how the problem is to be classified. Only then can you determine the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in the next steps.
To put it differently, you should not shoot cannons on sparrows. Problems that have a high strategic value deserve, of course, more attention than problems of a more short-term or operational nature.
Step 3: Analyze the problem
Considering that there are countless types of problems with countless variables, it is difficult to make general recommendations. My special tip is therefore: Do it like CIA agents. Solve the problem using a questionnaire checklist.
It is the "Phoenix Checklist for problem identification". The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents from the United States Foreign Intelligence Agency use the following checklist to look at a problem from different angles.
Checklist with problem solving questions
The following questionnaire can also help you with a professional or economic problem. And best of all, it helps you to analyze almost every problem.
- Why is it necessary that we solve the problem?
- What is the benefit of solving the problem?
- What is known to us?
- What do we not understand?
- What information is available to us?
- What is not the problem? Is the information sufficient? Are they insufficient? Are they redundant? Are they contradictory?
- Can we describe the problem graphically? Can it be quantified?
- Can the problem be broken down into sub-problems?
- How are the subproblems related?
- What are the variables that can be influenced by the problem?
- Have we seen this problem before?
- Have we seen a similar problem before?
- Do we know any related problems?
- Is there a known problem with the same unknown quantities?
- If there is a related problem we have already solved, can we use the solution to our current problem? Can we apply the same methodology?
- Can we reformulate our problem? How many different ways can we describe it? Can it be generalized or specified?
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