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Problem Solving

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Posted 25 April 2011 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

Personal Development Courses

We offer both:
• Bespoke in-house training.
These can be tailored to your specific needs.
• Open training courses at locations near you.
You may find the following will help with your Decision Making and Problem Solving skills training.

Problem solving

If I am reading your situation correctly, you have some problems that you urgently need to solve.
Recently one problem particularly, has been playing on your mind.

I know that is true, because that is also true for everyone.

So how do we go about solving problems?

Here is a method for problem solving.

To work this method you will need to have with you:

  1. Something to write on /with
  2. Your brain
  3. The brains of other people, whom you trust, and who have good levels of knowledge and intelligence

The method is in five parts:

In brief the five parts are:

  1. Name the problem in as short and concise a statement as is possible
  2. Name the problems four major causes
  3. Name the problems four major implications
  4. Name the problems three, as yet un noticed, potential benefits that might be present
  5. Write the plan of action

Let's look at each one:

Name the problem in as short, and concise a statement as is possible

When you are faced with a problem, the first thing is to clarify its essence: its root: the fundamental.

This is not easy because the fundamental problem is like a stone being dropped into a still pond:
it causes a ripple effect of "other problems".

The trick is to NOT focus on the ripple and ignore the stone which is the fundamental problem, causing the ripples.
Identify the fundamental problem and write it down as either a question or a statement.

For example:
The problem is: As a statement: Not enough sales.
The problem is: As a question: How can we make more sales?

Part two: Name the problems four major causes

You have the problem named, now take a fresh page and write a list of four numbers ( 1-4) thus:





Remember that everything that happens has a cause (or a set of multiple causes).

Causes are logically linked antecedent events: i.e.

  • they have occurred in the past and
  • their effects are now creating "the problem"

The problem of being overweight - fat, was caused, in part by, in the past, eating too many calories.

Note this:
Most problems have MORE than one cause
So please fill in at least four causes: Answer this question:

"What are the three or four major causes that, together have combined to create the problem X"

When you have done that, move to the next stage: stage 3 in your process

Stage 3 Name the problem and its four major implications

Remember the quote from the bible: "To him that has, more will be given!"
Which means: "those people with one big problem can expect others!"

The fact that you have problem X will lead to other on-going problems.
For example; your car is off the road, (which itself is a problem) will cause other problems:

  1. Not being able to get to the doctors.
  2. Not being able to get the shopping in.

These secondary problems I call implications.

On this page list at least four major implications of having problem X

Answer this question:
"What are the three or four major painful implications that we can reasonably expect to suffer, by virtue of the fact, that we have problem X"

When you have done that move to stage four.

Stage four: The un-noticed benefits of problem X

Name the problem and list at least three, as yet un-noticed, potential benefits that might arise from having problem X. In this section we look at the problem NOT as a problem but rather as:


We see how we might benefit from these new circumstances.
Did you know that many of the greatest breakthroughs in business and technology came when people capitalised on an ERROR? Or benefited from what was originally a problem.

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming

We have not finished:
Next: Go back to the page where you listed all the causes of the problem X (on stage two)

Look at all the causes that you listed.

For each one, try to answer these questions:

  1. What can I do to interrupt this cause?
  2. What can I do to stop this cause?

Write these actions down onto the plan of action page
What do we need to do, to prevent the same (or similar) cause from creating another problem like X?
Write this on the action plan
Next go to the page where you wrote all the painful implications
All of these painful implications must be averted by taking countermeasures
Ask yourself for each of the implications:

"What do we need to do NOW to prevent or mitigate the future possible painful effects of the problem X"
For each answer place a note on the action plan page
Next turn to the page where you wrote unforeseen benefits of having the problem x

Ask yourself
"For each of these potential benefits, what is the plan we might use to profit by this new set of circumstances?"
For each note you make, put an action on the action plan list.

Look at the action plan page

You have recorded there:

  1. All the things you need to do to prevent the causes of problem X
  2. All the things you need to do to prevent the effects of problem X from creating new bigger problems
  3. All the things you might do to profit from the problem situation

Sudy the list, put it into priority order, and go back to work!

If you want to learn more, or attend an excellent problem solving training course please follow this link.

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