Problems can be classified into two different types a) ill-defined, and b) well-defined according to the clarity of the goals and solution path.
Most of the real-world industrial problems are ill-defined, and you need to have a solid framework to target it; otherwise, you will not be successful to solve it.
To solve ill- or well-defined problems, you would need different approaches. For example, “initial planning” is used for the well-defined problems while “abstract thinking with creativity” suits for ill-defined problems.
We describe a 7-step problem-solving framework in this article. These steps may seem obvious at first sight but having them in one’s mind help to solve a problem effectively. These are the 7 steps:
If you can clearly articulate the problem you want to solve, it means you define the problem well. You have to be able to explain it to another person in < 1 min. Break down the problem to many pieces to solve it easier. The initial state, the main goal, and the constraints must be identified in this step. You can use the “Five Ws” framework to effectively gather information for this step.
You can find more about the “Five Ws” framework here.
You split the problem to many pieces in the last step. Now, those pieces must sit next to each other to create the big picture. You can use different methodologies to formulate a problem. Graphs theory, systems theory, and optimization theory are very useful to represent and formulate a problem.
List all the possible solutions regardless of the resources that they need. Conduct brainstorming sessions with your colleagues to collect different approaches to target a problem. Run research to find possible solutions suggested by your peers.
Each solution has pros and cons. It depends on the existing constraints (e.g., time, expertise, and budget), you should select a proper solution. Don’t spend much time on analyzing anyway. Make a decision and proceed.
Start with low-hanging fruits and pursue it with more sophisticated methods. Follow the prioritization frameworks such as the Kano model, the MoSCoW method, or effort vs impact. Ensure to also follow the project management principles in this step.
Seek feedback. You definitely have to measure the goodness of your solution and monitor its improvement over time. Plus, always be open to receive feedback from everyone. When you get involved with details you may lose the big picture.
Ensuring to meet the requirement. At the end of the day, you have to satisfy your clients or customers.
Note that a well-defined problem has a clear response to the first two steps but an ill-defined problem need clear responses to each step.