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September 2009


Creative Problem Solving

Every team has problems and challenges in its path.   Everyone wants to solve them and get back to business.  But things get sticky when each person tries to solve the problem a different way, without communicating as a team.  What teams need is a common method that anyone can use and which erases most of the emotion from the situation.

Want to achieve real success?  Try these steps.

Key Steps to Solving Problems

1. Identify And State The Problem

There are lots of problems out there, right? So pick a small one and get started.  You want to develop your ability to solve problems gradually.  Give yourself time to warm up.  Any individual or any team that is encountering the problem can do this.  Responsibility for solving problems rests on everyone's shoulders.

Be clear and state the problem.  Make certain everyone agrees what the problem is before you work to resolve it.

2. Identify And State The Cause(s)

Not the person, rather the behavior.  You should not focus on attitude or individuals.  You need to focus on the specific behaviors that cause the problem.  Remember, different causes may be present under different circumstances.

3. Determine The Criteria For A Solution

Before you can find a solution you need to know what one would look like if your saw it.  Answer these questions: who, what, where, when, why, how, how much?  Don’t not get ahead of yourself, you will be motivated to start naming and judging the quality of solutions at this point.  Don’t not do it: just describe the criteria.

4. Generate Options

This is also called brainstorming.  Get everyone to list all possible options (whether they sound good or not).  There are no wrong answers; no judgments are made at this stage.  Simply list all suggestions from everyone who is involved.  A strange idea might be the catalyst that sparks someone to think of a great idea.

5. Pick The Best Option

Compare each possible solution against the criteria and against your organizational mission, vision, and values.  You may not have a perfect fit.  Pick the closest match.

6. Develop An Action Plan

You have to implement the solution.  List all possible ways to make it happen, and set a timeline (some of the steps in the plan will come from other options that you found in Step 4). 

  • Action (no matter how small) must begin within 24 hours (one week at the outside).
  • Each action step must be owned by a specific individual (someone who is responsible).



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