7 Steps for Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making 3

In my previous blog post I discussed 10 principles of success that can be implemented daily, whether in our personal or business lives. I would like to take the ideas there a  little further and explore how they form an integral part of something that we are forced to do all the time – solve problems and make decisions.

Problem-solving and decision-making are often scary thoughts. These two terms conjure up thoughts of complex processes, scientific research, mathematics, guesswork and that dreaded feeling of the unknown. The truth is that we are faced with multiple problems and are forced to make numerous decisions daily. Often our responses to problems and challenges are subconscious.

By bringing them into the realm of consciousness we can achieve astounding things. Think of the great inventors of the past two centuries – Edison, Franklin and Bell. Their inventions have solved problems that many of us now take for granted. 

But what about other more modern problems that produced just as inspired solutions – spill-free coffee cups, ATM pin-numbers and post-its. Few people can recognize the names Jack Clements, James Goodfellow or Spencer Silver off the cuff. What did these men have in common with the more famous inventors of the light bulb, spectacles and the telephone? They saw a problem, analyzed it and made a decision as to how to resolve that problem.

This is a process that drives business and innovation. It creates progress. It solves everyday challenges and creates new ones. Entrepreneurs, business and salespeople are just like inventors. The really good ones consciously see problems, which they explore and attempt to solve. The solutions stem from the decisions and choices we make – sometimes these take us on the scenic route and occasionally we find solid, workable solutions immediately. What I find works for me though is a simple set of 7 steps, which anyone can follow.

  1. Define the problem you want to solve – What is the core issue that you want to address? Will it make people’s lives easier or simpler? 
  2. Identify possible solutions – Don’t try to solve the problem just yet – brainstorm possible solutions without making a decision.
  3. Determine your objectives – What is it that you want to achieve by solving the problem?
  4. Test the alternatives – Try to determine which of the different possible solutions works the best according to the objectives you have set for your yourself.
  5. Select the best alternative – Based on the testing process, choose the solution that seems to best address the problem you have identified.
  6. Implement your decision – Take action that will address the problem you are attempting to solve.
  7. Evaluate your results – Only once you have tried out your solution will you determine its effectiveness.

These 7 steps form the basis of any problem-solving and decision-making process but draw from the 10 principles of success mentioned in my previous post. Without following your curiosity, using your imagination, making mistakes, creating value, doing things differently and most importantly perseverence; think what problems would still require solutions. We need to have dogged determination and not let our creative sides be sidelined by critics and negativity. Think of it this way, “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” (Edna Mode in The Incredibles).

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3 thoughts on “7 Steps for Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

  • Chidi Bosole

    Hi Jared

    This is very interesting. The steps you outlined are of impotance althought the first step I agree that the problem must be identified first.

  • Jared Shippel Post author

    You raise some excellent points Busi. The 7 steps are intended to just be an initial guideline, but the first step of defining the problem you want to solve does include root cause analysis. In fact the process of problem-solving is primarily about determining what the problem is and testing alternatives.

    Brainstorming is an excellent tool, however it tends to be less effective when there are particularly loud or brash members of the team and other more timid individuals. I use this methodology with my clients but also make use of mindstorming and brain thinking, which are more inclusive and allow for quieter members of the team to have their perspectives taken into account – often with better and more creative solutions to challenging problems.

  • Busi Nkosana

    Thanks a lot Jarred for the simple method of problems solving which is easy to follow. Problem solving and decision making is still a huge challenge in most organizations. In some instances we come up with solutions that are causing more problems. I also believe that its also important to establish the cause of the problem before one comes up with a solution. I have witnessed cases where people tend to solve what they see without understanding the underlying issues that has triggered the problem. In that case  one end up creating more problems.

    The idea of brainstorming is really disregarded I really wish that as managers we can take it very seriously as the saying goes * two or more brains are better than one* especially in the workplace. I also support the last step *Evaluate your results* as at times we forget to follow up whether the solution really address the problem, but my question again will be how long does one takes to evaluate the results after the implementation of solution or decision?