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7 Steps Toward Solving a Problem!

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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 succeed to solve it.

You need different approaches to solve ill-defined or well-defined problems. For example, as much as “initial planning” works for well-defined problems, it hurts the development plan (and, team spirit) for ill-defined problems. So do NOT insist on sprint planning when everything is ambiguous. 

Don't insist on sprint planning when everything is ambiguous. Click To Tweet

I 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. Note that a well-defined problem has a clear response to the first 2 steps but an ill-defined problem need clear responses to each step.

I practiced this framework several times in the past. This framework helped me to understand a problem,  find a solution, and communicate at ease with the team. These are the 7 steps: 

1- Define the problem.

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. So, if you can’t, don’t start solving it!

If you can't explain the problem to another person in <1 min, something is wrong! Click To Tweet

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.

2- Formulate the problem.

Break down the problem to many pieces 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.

Graphs theory, systems theory, and optimization theory are very useful to represent and formulate a problem. Click To Tweet

3- Look for possible solutions.

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. Let everyone be proud of being part of the problem-solving team. Run research to find possible solutions suggested by your peers.

Let everyone be proud of being part of the problem-solving team! Click To Tweet

4- Analyze possible solutions.

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. 

5- Implement a solution.

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”. My suggestion is the latter method which is easy to use and easy to communicate especially if you have to convince another person in the team. Ensure to also follow the project management principles in this step.

Use -Effort vs Impact- framework to prioritize tasks. It is easy to use and easy to communicate! Click To Tweet

Related Link- 7 product prioritization frameworks for product managers

6- Monitor progress.

You definitely have to measure the goodness of your solution and monitor its improvement over time. If you can NOT reproduce results as many time as needed it means you have to reconsider your solution. 

Seek feedback. Always be open to receive feedback from everyone. When you get involved with details you may lose the big picture.

If you can NOT reproduce results as many time as needed it means you have to reconsider your solution. Click To Tweet

7- Deliver the results.

Ensuring to meet the requirement, and keep the team updated. At the end of the day, you have to satisfy your clients, customers, or company executives.