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What are Problem Solving Questions?

Be creative and come up with as many solutions as you can think of. Keep an open mind and list anything that comes to mind, plausible or not. Step 4. Rule out any obvious poor options. Okay, reality check. Evaluate your list of ideas and rule out the ones that are unrealistic or unhelpful. Bye-bye, rainbow unicorn. That option should probably stay on your list.

Soft Skills - Problem Solving

Step 5. Examine the consequences. Step 6. Identify the best solutions. Look at your list of options, and pick out the ones that are most practical and helpful. There may be one obvious solution, or some might work in combination. Step 7. Put your solutions into practice. Have faith in yourself and make the commitment to try out one of your solutions. Step 8. How did it go? So, you tried it out.


What happened? Despite your best efforts, you may still not be able to fix something. Whether you're solving a problem for a client internal or external , supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve, the problems you face can be large or small, simple or complex, and easy or difficult.

Additional Guidelines for Problem Solving and Decision Making

A fundamental part of every manager's role is finding ways to solve them. So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success. Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem. With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively. Without one, your solutions may be ineffective, or you'll get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences. Steps 2 to 4 of this process are covered in depth in other areas of Mind Tools.

7 Steps for Effective Problem Solving

For these, see our sections on Creativity for step 2 generating alternatives ; Decision Making for step 3 evaluating and selecting alternatives ; and Project Management for step 4 implementing solutions. The articles in this section of Mind Tools therefore focus on helping you make a success of the first of these steps — defining the problem.

A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Many of the tools in this section help you do just that.

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  • How to master the seven-step problem-solving process;

We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks. The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem — not its symptoms. For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work.

However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training, or an unreasonable workload. Receive new career skills every week, plus get our latest offers and a free downloadable Personal Development Plan workbook. At this stage, it's also important to ensure that you look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a problem statement that's really a solution instead. For example, consider this problem statement: "We have to find a way of disciplining of people who do substandard work. When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier.

So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand, because there's a web of interrelated issues. The good news is that there are numerous tools you can use to make sense of this tangled mess! Many of these help you create a clear visual representation of the situation, so that you can better understand what's going on. Another popular tool is the Cause-and-Effect Diagram.

To generate viable solutions, you must have a solid understanding of what's causing the problem. Using our example of substandard work, Cause-and-Effect diagrams would highlight that a lack of training could contribute to the problem, and they could also highlight possible causes such as work overload and problems with technology. Quite often, what may seem to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems.

Going back to our example, substandard work could be caused by insufficient skills, but excessive workloads could also be contributing, as could excessively short lead times and poor motivation. The four-step approach to solving problems that we mentioned at the beginning of this article will serve you well in many situations. These provide detailed steps that you can use to solve a problem effectively.

7 Steps for Effective Problem Solving

These steps build upon the basic process described earlier, and they create a cycle of problem finding and solving that will continually improve your organization. It uses four stages to help you uncover more details about what's creating the problem, and then define actions that will improve the situation. Using established tools and techniques will help you improve your approach to solving the problems that your team and your organization face.