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Problem solving

Sometimes, it is not enough to just cope with the problems – they need to be solved.

Most people engage in problem solving every day. It occurs automatically for many of the small decisions that need to be made on a daily basis.

For example, when making a decision about whether to get up now or sleep in for an extra 10 minutes, the possible choices and the relative risks and benefits of obeying the alarm clock or sleeping later come automatically to mind.

Larger problems are addressed in a similar way. For example: “I have tasks that need to be done by the end of the week. How am I going to get them all done on time?”

After considering the possible strategies, 1 is chosen and implemented. If it proves to be ineffective, a different strategy is tried.

People who can define problems, consider options, make choices, and implement a plan have all the basic skills required for effective problem solving.

Sometimes following a step-by-step procedure for defining problems, generating solutions, and implementing solutions can make the process of problem solving seem less overwhelming.

Six step guide to help you solve problems

Step 1: identify and define the problem.

Step 2: Generate possible solutions

Step 3: Evaluate alternatives      

Step 4: Decide on a solution      

Step 5: Implement the solution

Step 6: Evaluate the outcome

Problem solving is something we do every day.

Some problems are small or easily solved - others are more complicated and can seem overwhelming.

One way of tackling problems is to use a specific and systematic problem solving procedure. If you’ve tried to solve certain problems without much success, try these steps out and see if they help.

Learning to solve problems effectively will help you to minimise the level of stress in your life and improve your overall sense of well-being.

Try it out and see.

Where to get help

Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI)

See your doctor

Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222, mental health emergency response line (mherl).

This information provided by

Centre for Clinical Interventions logo

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Related sites

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page

Department of Health

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Help articles.

></center></p><h2>A Six-Step Plan For Problem Solving</h2><p>Problem-solving skills are extremely valuable when running your own business, as you will have many different challenges to overcome. Problems can come in many different forms and sizes, but almost any problem can be solved by following a simple process. Follow this six-step plan to solve your business problems.</p><blockquote>1. Define the Problem</blockquote><p>The first step to finding a solution is to clearly  define your problem . Aim to sum up your problem in as few words as possible, breaking it down into several smaller sections, if necessary. It’s important to be as specific as possible when defining the problem. For example, if you need to find funding for a business venture, write down the exact amount you need and create an itemized list of what you need it for. </p><blockquote>2. Brainstorm Solutions</blockquote><p>Use  brainstorming  to come up with as many potential solutions as possible. The key to successful brainstorming is to jot down all ideas that come into your head, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous they seem, as this helps to activate the creative part of your brain. Set a timer for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the complexity of your problem, and focus completely on coming up with inventive solutions.  Use an online whiteboard  if possible, as others can synchronously or asynchronously add their own brain dumps into a shared space to promote creativity.</p><blockquote>3. Analyze Your Options</blockquote><p>Look through your list of potential solutions and pick three or four of the most promising options. Draw up a list of advantages and disadvantages for each of your chosen options. Consider how difficult each option will be to implement, what resources you will need and any legal difficulties that may arise. You may also want to consider the potential outcomes of choosing each option, as there may be unintended consequences for your actions.</p><blockquote>4. Choose a Solution</blockquote><p>Use your lists of advantages and disadvantages to evaluate and choose the best available solution to suit your needs. You may need to consider several factors when weighing up potential solutions, such as the financial costs, how difficult it will be to achieve your aims, how long it will take to implement the plan, and how likely your plan is to succeed.</p><blockquote>5. Create a Plan</blockquote><p>Create a step-by-step plan for implementing your solution. Break your plan down into the smallest steps possible, making sure that each step is specific, realistic, and measurable in some way. Set dates and times for the completion of each step, as this will help to keep you on track. The more specific you can be when creating your plan of action, the easier it will be to stick to your targets and achieve your objectives.</p><blockquote>6. Evaluate Your Plan</blockquote><p>Once you have implemented and seen your plan through to completion, it’s time to evaluate how successful the plan was. If you managed to solve your problem, you can reward yourself and acknowledge your achievements. However, if your plan failed to achieve your objectives, you will need to revise your strategy. You may choose to stick with your original solution, making changes to the plan or adding extra steps and goals along the way. Alternatively, you may choose to start again using one of your other potential solutions from step three.</p><p>When faced with a business problem, you can find a solution by following a simple process. Define the problem, brainstorm solutions, analyze your options, choose a solution, create a plan and then evaluate your plan, as this is a simple, step-by-step way to overcome business challenges and obstacles.</p><h2>Success in your inbox</h2><p>Get monthly insights handpicked by our editorial team. Act on it.</p><p><center><img style=

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Problem-solving is a crucial skill to have for success in business. It makes you more effective, helps when making a decision, and to execute ideas. No matter how big and complicated your problem is, breaking it down into steps will help you feel more in control. You won’t wander in a fog, full of self-doubt, wasting energy on what you can’t change.

This six-step problem-solving method provides focused instructions to get the solutions you need. 

Step 1: Define the problem

Step 2: Determine the root cause(s) of the problem

Step 3: Develop potential solutions

Step 4: Select a solution

Step 5: Implement the solution

Step 6: Evaluate the outcome

6 problem solving steps

Each step should be completed before moving on to the next one . However, steps can be repeated. For example, if you’re on the third step, you can still return to the previous step, and redefine the problem. 

problem solving steps - define the problem

First Step: Define the problem

In the first step, you recognize what the problem is. Ask yourself: What am I trying to solve? You need to make sure you have a good view of the problem because you don’t want to be fixing something that is already working. Understanding this might be hard, especially if it involves a group of people, but it’s crucial for future success. 

In addition to recognizing the problem, you should also establish a goal for what you want to achieve . The flow here should be very clear: 

* Something is wrong or something could be improved.

* A clear goal for fixing it.

Recognizing a problem and setting up a clear goal for fixing it saves you from complaining or stressing about it. You don’t want to be stuck because of these negative emotions. Having a clear explanation of what you want to change means you’re on the right path.

problem solving steps - determine the root cause of the problem

Second Step: Determine the root cause(s) of the problem

Skipping to the solution of the problem without recognizing its symptoms usually means the problem will come back in the future. Like in medicine, we need to understand the difference between treating the symptoms and curing the condition. Treating symptoms helps you in the short run , but it doesn't eliminate the real reason for the problem. Recognizing the deeper issue helps to adjust the treatment and eliminate the root of the problem. Root cause analysis (RCA) distinguishes three basic types of causes:  

1. Physical causes - These are tangible, material items that failed (broken laptop, broken camera, a printer that stopped working).

2. Human causes - It means that people did something wrong or didn’t do something that created a physical cause (didn’t protect a laptop which fell down on the floor or didn’t refill the printer cartridge).

3. Organizational causes - It might be a process or policy in a company that is faulty (a customer didn’t get a refund because there was nobody assigned to that task). Finding vulnerabilities in the system, like a policy that is wrong, is a good thing because you can quickly work on improving it. Discovering issues caused by people helps you find out that maybe employees have too much on their hands and that’s why they omitted something. Physical causes can lead to the conclusion that you should invest in office equipment because two days without a working computer costs your company more than just buying a new computer itself. 

problem solving steps - develop possible solutions

Third Step Develop possible solutions

It’s time to get creative and come up with as many possible solutions as you can. This is a brainstorming session , so don’t rule out some ideas because they don't seem perfect. There’s an issue with a client and the only solution you can think of is flying out to space? That’s fine. Keep an open mind, and write down everything that comes to your mind. You’ll evaluate it later.

Writing down your ideas is an important step, especially if you’re dealing with a complicated issue. It allows you to see everything better and makes it easier to choose the right solution and take action.

problem solving steps - determine the solution

Third Step Select a solution

Now it’s time to go back to earth. Your job is to evaluate your list of ideas. Start by excluding those that are unrealistic to do or not helpful in any way. I guess flying to space can wait for now, but reaching out to a customer and asking them the right questions should definitely stay on the list. Which solution seems the most feasible? Think about the consequences for each of them. If you’re solving a problem for your team, think about it from their perspective . Which solution would be the best for those who will be implementing it? Here are some questions that will help you choose the right solution: 

In short, you judge the feasibility and select the best fit.

problem solving steps - implement the solution

Fifth Step Implement the solution

It’s time to put everything from the paper into action. However, keep in mind that execution follows only after planning. If a problem applies to other people as well, establish these key things:

While implementing the solution, it’s best to act in short iterations with testing the outcome and getting feedback from others. Keep in mind that there’s no need for it to be perfect the first time. That’s also the reason you shouldn’t get attached to only one solution. If you see that the solution you chose is failing to give you the outcome you desire, try using some of the different solutions you established before.  

problem solving  steps- evaluate the outcome

Final Step Evaluate the outcome

In last step devote some time to review the results. What happened after you implemented the changes? What worked, what didn’t, and what did your solution improve? Analyze if your actions made the required impact and if you addressed the root causes of the issue. It’s also time to look for improvements in the solution and to plan ongoing monitoring. You can also analyze what you’ve learned and what still needs to be learned when it comes to problem-solving processes and skills. 

Problem-solving skills you need

Remember that problem-solving is a process of constant improvement and that you’ll be repeating it. Don’t expect the perfect solution from the start or that the problem won’t appear in the future. In fact, don’t try to avoid problems at all because they’re part of your learning process. 

If you adopt an attitude in which you focus on finding solutions every time new challenges emerge, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress. 

Good luck with problem-solving! If you have some questions or you want to exchange ideas on how to best solve problems, reach out to me on @Twitter ! 

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Six steps to becoming a better problem solver.

Whether you are a Cisco Networking Academy student, a parent, an intern, a rookie, or the president of a large corporation you are going to have to face problems at some point.

Problems which will need solutions to solve them.

They are part of everyone’s life.

Like it or not, we all have to make decisions. And the decisions we make need to solve the problems we face. Whether you want to fix a bug in your network, hit a deadline, secure that promotion or start your own company – however big or small, we all set objectives and goals for ourselves that require us to solve problems.

Being good at problem-solving is in big demand. Employers routinely add it to their wish-list. How many times have you seen “problem solvers wanted” in job descriptions? As far as tech goes, the ability to resolve challenges effectively is fast becoming an essential skill for recruitment.

So how do you sharpen this particular skill? Is there an approach or strategy to problem-solving that can be mastered or improved?

Well, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a systematic approach built on well-defined steps can help you find solutions that yield real, sustainable, and scale-able solutions – whatever the problem.

Problem-Solving: A Step by Step Approach

1. Identify the problem?

There is no better starting point than defining what it is that needs to be fixed.

It means taking the time to thoroughly review the situation -  separating the symptoms from the cause . Making your diagnosis is about understanding what hurts and why. This takes time and might mean doing a bit of research to reveal the underlying issues behind the problem.

2. Determine the Root Causes

Once you have identified what your problem is, you need to figure out why it is.

Because as you work towards solving your problem, you are going to want to find a solution that deals with the causes and not just the symptoms, right?  So again, take the time to investigate the situation. Collect information, analyze your findings, and refine your diagnosis.

3. Find Multiple Solutions

Being a good problem-solver means thinking innovatively and that means thinking outside the box. Do not settle for the first solution you find. Push the boat out. Find as many alternative solutions as you can. And then find some more.

This might mean looking for solutions in unusual places or from unusual sources – talking to a different set of colleagues, keeping an open mind, or being receptive to the interchange of ideas or perspectives. Whatever if it takes, once you have a set of alternative solutions, subject them all to analysis.

4. Find the Solution that will Work Best

Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Go about it logically. Answer these questions:

5. Plan and Implement Your Solution

Give this part plenty of thought too. Build a really tight plan to execute your solution.  You will need to cover who, what, when, and how you will implement your plan.

And just as importantly, you will need to think about how you are going to determine if your solution was a success, which leads us to the final step.

6. Measure the Success of Your Solution

How does it measure against your goals? Have you met your objectives? Have you stayed within budget? Is the work complete? Can you see a measurable outcome? 

Evaluating the success of your solution is a vital – and often neglected step – because it shows you clearly whether your solution is the correct one, or whether you need to go back to step one and start over. Because a key part of problem-solving effectively is about being prepared to get it wrong – and to learn from your mistakes.

Remember that all problems are simply puzzles waiting to be solved. Practice using these six steps to build your problem solving acumen and you will find that your abilities being highly valued.

Being Positive means Better Problem Solving

Being Positive means Better Problem Solving

Problem solving skills are fundamental to being a successful technologist. Employers and industry research support the notion that skilled problem solvers are in high-demand.

Learn Why Employers want Techies with Data Analysis Skills

Learn Why Employers want Techies with Data Analysis Skills

Data analysis is one of the top skills in demand by employers.

give the six steps of problem solving

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Six Steps to Structured Problem Solving

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What happens when a big problem pops up?  For most of us, our first reaction is, “Quick!  Let’s fix it and make this problem go away.” However, if we rush to fix the problem too quickly, we may end up implementing a “solution” or “quick fix” that doesn’t solve anything because we didn’t take the time to truly identify and understand the root cause of the problem itself.

One way we can keep ourselves from falling into this trap is by having a formal structured problem-solving (SPS) process in place.  Then, when problems do occur, we know exactly what steps to take to help ensure that our solution really will “make it go away.” While there are different variations to an SPS ( 8D , 5Why , DMAIC , etc.), they all follow the same basic steps.

1. Define the Problem

It is important to write a problem statement that is easily understood and is stated purely in terms of measurable or observable symptoms. At this point, there should be no mention of suspected causes or possible solutions. We just need to know what the problem is.  A good problem statement might look something like this: “High (greater than 8 ppb) trace metals in one of our hardmask products are causing unacceptably high defect counts with our most important customer.  We will lose this business if we cannot correct the problem by the end of the year.”

2. Describe the Current Situation

We do this by examining data that is readily available. In our hardmask example, we would collect batch data to identify the specific batches with the elevated defects and then study this data to see what they have in common.  Were they all made in a particular manufacturing location or on the same equipment set? Did they all use the same lots of the raw materials? By identifying where the problem is occurring, and where it is not occurring, we begin to zero in on what is causing our problem.

3. Identify Possible Causes

To identify possible causes, we should gather the team and brainstorm all potential causes that come to mind.  Once we’ve exhausted all possibilities, we can then start systematically ruling items out.  This is the most time-consuming, but one of the most vital steps in the process as we take each potential cause and work to rule it out. We must keep working until we have eliminated everything but the root cause.

4. Verify Root Cause

When we think that we have identified the true root cause, we need verify that it is the root cause by testing out our theory.  For our hardmask example, let’s say that we believe that the root cause is due to a bad batch of one of the raw materials. We can test our theory by making a new batch with everything the same except for a new batch of the suspect ingredient.  If the defect levels are back to normal, that’s a good indication that we have confirmed our root cause. 

5. Implement Solution

After we’ve identified the root cause, we implement a solution to remedy the issue, standardizing our solution and making the change permanent. This could mean updating specifications, writing new training materials, updating training packages or updating the FMEA. In the case of our hardmask example, we would need to create specifications and appropriate testing methods that will alert us that a batch of raw material is bad before we use it.  

6. Monitor for Success

After the solution has been implemented, test data can then be created to find which solutions offer the best improvements. In the case of our hardmask example, we would run test batches to make sure that we have the correct solution in place.  Measurements should also be taken on a scheduled basis to continue to confirm that the solution is still valid, making updates if and when needed.

  To stay up to date on industry hot topics, subscribe to the Brewer Science blog . You can also stay up to date on Brewer Science industry events, topics and news by following us on Twitter , YouTube , LinkedIn , or Facebook .

About Author

Karen Brown

Karen Brown, Director of Organizational Development & Relationships, has been employed with Brewer Science for over a decade. Her background in employee development and training has made her an expert for the Brewer Science team in crafting successful, problem-solving employees

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