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Problem Solving Techniques


Contents :-


This section will help you to recognize complicated, difficult situations. Without them problems might seem enormous, overwhelming and excessively complex.

These techniques help you conduct a precise analysis of the problems you face, helping you look at as many factors as possible in a structured and methodical way. They give you a starting point in problem solving situation (and Business problem solving situations) where other people would just feel helpless and intimidated by the situation.



This section covers general approaches. Finding real problem from facts is a useful technique for extracting good information from facts..

Breaking Problem in detail helps you to break large, seemingly unmanageable problems down into achievable parts. It also helps you to see where you need more information. Brainstorming are very useful for making sure that you have considered all factors relating to a problem, while 5 Why’s are hugely powerful tools for showing how factors relate in composite situations.

Finding real problem from facts

It is a very simple but powerful technique for extracting the maximum amount of information from a simple fact.

How to Use :

Starting with a fact, ask the question 'So what?' - i.e. what are the impacts of that fact? Keep on asking that question until you have drawn all possible inferences.



This technique is used by military planners, so we will take a military example:

Fact: It rained heavily last night

So What?- The ground will be damp

So What?- It will turn into mud quickly

So What?- If many troops and vehicles pass over the same ground, movement will be progressively slower and more difficult as the ground gets muddier and more difficult.

So What?- Where possible, stick to paved roads. Otherwise expect movement to be much slower than normal.

It provides a outline within which you can extract information rapidly, effectively and reliably.

Asking 'so what?' repeatedly helps you to extract all important information implied by a fact.

Identifying causes of Problem (Brainstorming)

Brainstorming is a useful and popular instrument that you can use to develop highly creative solutions to a problem.

It is particularly helpful when you need to break out of sour, established patterns of thinking, so that you can develop new ways of looking at things. This can be when you need to expand new opportunities, where you want to improve the service that you offer, or when existing approaches just aren't giving you the results you want..

Used with your team, it helps you bring the experience of all team members into play during problem solving..

Individual Brainstorming

When you brainstorm on your own you will tend to produce a wider range of ideas than with group brainstorming - you do not have to worry about other people's egos or opinions, and can therefore be more freely creative. You may not, however, develop ideas as effectively as you do not have the experience of a group to help you.


Group Brainstorming

Group brainstorming can be very helpful as it uses the experience and creativity of all members of the group. When individual members reach their limit on an idea, another member's creativity and experience can take the idea to the next stage. Therefore, group brainstorming tends to develop ideas in more depth than individual brainstorming.


Brainstorming in a group can be hazardous for individuals. Valuable but strange suggestions may appear stupid at first sight. Because of such, you need to chair sessions firmly so that uncreative people do not crush these ideas and leave group members feeling embarrassed.

How to use tool:

To run a group brainstorming session effectively, do the following:

• Identify the problem you want solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met;

• Keep the session focused on the problem;

• Make sure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming session;

• Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to put in and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group;

• Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones. Welcome creativity;

• Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long;

• Encourage people to develop other people's ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones.

• Employ one person to note down ideas that come out of the session. A good way of doing this is to use a flip chart. This should be studied and evaluated after the session.

Where possible, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This brings a broad range of experience to the session and helps to make it more creative.

Brainstorming is a great way of generating deep-seated ideas. During the brainstorming process there is no criticism of ideas, as free bridle is given to people's creativity (criticism and judgment cramp creativity.)

This often makes group brainstorming sessions enjoyable experiences, which are great for bringing team members together.

Individual brainstorming is best for generating many ideas, but tends to be less effective at developing them. Group brainstorming tends to develop fewer ideas, but takes each idea further. Group brainstorming needs formal rules for it to work smoothly.

Breaking Problem in detail

It is a simple technique for breaking difficult problems down into progressively smaller parts.

To use the technique, start by writing the problem down on the left-hand side of a large sheet of paper. Next, write down the points that make up the next level of detail on the problem a little to the right of this. These may be factors contributing to the problem, information relating to it, or questions raised by it. This procedure of breaking the problem down into its component part is called 'drilling down'.


For each of these points, repeat the procedure. Keep on drilling down into points until you fully understand the factors contributing to the problem. If you cannot break them down using the knowledge you have, then carry out whatever research is necessary to understand the point.

Drilling into a question helps you to get a much deeper understanding of it. The procedure helps you to be familiar with and understand the factors that contribute to it. Drill Down prompts you to link in information that you had not initially associated with a problem. It also shows exactly where you need further information.

'This technique helps you to smash a large and complex problem down into its component parts, so that you can develop plans to treaty with these parts. It also shows you which points you need to research in more detail.

5 Why’s Technique

The 5 Whys is a simple problem-solving technique that helps users to get to the root of the problem quickly. Made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, the 5 Whys strategy involves looking at any problem and asking: “Why?” and “What caused this problem?”

Very often, the answer to the first “why” will prompt another “why” and the answer to the second “why” will prompt another and so on; hence the name the 5 Whys strategy.


Benefits of the 5 Whys include:

• It helps to quickly find out the root cause of a problem

• It is easy to learn and apply

How to Use

When looking to solve a problem, start at the end result and work backward (toward the root cause), continually asking: “Why?” This will need to be repeated over and over until the root cause of the problem becomes apparent.


Following is an example of the 5 Whys analysis as an effective problem-solving technique:

1. Why is our client, XYZ, unhappy? Because we did not carry our services when we said we would.

2. Why were we unable to meet the agreed-upon timeline or schedule for delivery? The job took much longer than we thought it would.

3. Why did it take so much longer? Because we underestimated the complication of the job

4. Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and did not list the individual stages needed to complete the project.

5. Why didn't we do this? Because we were running behind on other projects. We clearly need to review our time estimation and specification procedures.

The 5 Whys Technique is an easy and often-effective tool for uncovering the root of a problem. Because it is so uncomplicated in nature, it can be adapted quickly and applied to most any problem. Bear in mind, however, that if it doesn’t prompt an intuitive answer, other problem-solving techniques may need to be applied.

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