When facing important decisions, most of us feel at least somewhat unsure of ourselves: a€?Have I considered all the options? Using a structured approach and graphical tools allows you to consider a problem thoroughly, examine your thinking along the way, and reach a decision you can live with. We instinctively recognize that problems range from simple to complex, and most of us don’t need help deciding how to solve simple problems. There is a tendency to approach all problems as simple, or to simplify complex ones to tame them. I’ve found it helpful, when learning new concepts, to think of a line defining a polarity with a range of values, then estimating where a given situation falls along that line. The lower part of the diagram identifies some common solution approaches along the problem complexity continuum, and lays out some tools and methods in rough correlation.
A worksheet or graphic organizer might help you get a handle on a problem, or jump start your thinking about it.
As I began working to develop better collaborative problem solving skills, I read How to Make Collaboration Work by David Straus, and I learned an approach for reaching better group decisions.
Personally, I apply what Straus teaches by asking six questions of both myself and others as we work to solve problems together.
Once we agree that there is a problem and that we both define it the same way, we can analyze the causes. Most of the problems we solve using this process could be solved in many different ways and every solution will have its own set of benefits and drawbacks. This series of questions helps people to identify hidden assumptions or conclusions they might bring to the table that would hinder reaching a conclusion that everyone can accept. While the skills of the individual problem solver and the group problem solver are similar, there are also some major differences. There are lots of great tools and techniques you can apply to become a better communicator, to build your influence, and to develop your persuasion skills. When people don’t agree on the problem definition, they will never agree on the problem solution. As a result, you will waste time and energy trying to convince each other of the “right” way to solve the revenue shortfall with very little likelihood of reaching a mutually agreeable solution. As you work with your team, resist the urge to propose solutions before you have invested the time on the front-end of each problem solving effort to ensure that everyone has a common definition of the problem. And still, I have moments of insight about myself, my thinking, and my conflict approaches that are new. A few days ago, a colleague of mine received a request from a customer to address a challenge, and she did not have all of the information necessary to fix the problem. Out of frustration and near desperation, she called me to see if I could offer any insights or perspective that could help her to address the customer’s issue. I received an email from a person who had some challenges accessing information at the Bud to Boss Community for leaders.
There are many situations — in coaching, parenting, and performance management for example — when the approach I started with is a better long-term answer. The first scenario fell in the category of having elements of both quick fix and long-term solution thinking. That same strength, carried to excess, can sometimes stop me from taking immediate action to solve the problem and move on. The first question probably relates to the first point I made about my strength carried to excess, and it reveals a subtle flaw in my thinking. How can you rephrase the questions that you ask yourself so that you become an active problem solver before conflicts escalate? As I write this post, I am sitting in a hotel room in Anaheim, California preparing to lead a Bud to Boss workshop.
Until people talk through their perspectives to the point that they feel heard and understood, they will find it difficult to come to a collective decision that they can all live with and act upon. There where 18 powerful leaders from across the state of Indiana in this meeting – business leaders, educational leaders, and leaders of not-for-profit organizations. In preparation for the meeting, I put together an agenda with a structured process designed to allow the time necessary to talk through issues with an eye towards driving decisions and commitments rather than just talk. As we began the meeting and I led the group through the initial discussion steps, I could feel myself getting anxious. And then, near the end of the meeting, we did an exercise designed to identify and rank obstacles the group needed to face in reaching their desired future. I believe that the process we used supported the group in coming to a conclusion, and the time to talk it out was a big part of the final success. The next time you lead a group problem solving session, make sure you allow the time necessary to let everyone have their say. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled Why You Shouldn’t Take Conflict Resolution Lessons From Politicians. As I look at the health care reform debate, I see a number of these behaviors in the way the discussion(s) is (are) proceeding. I am not a doctor, pharmacist, attorney, drug company executive or any other person who has deep insights into the intricacies of our health care system. Virtually all of the discussion that I have seen mentions or implies that the system itself is broken.
The point of this post is to learn from the communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving failures present in this discussion. Problem number one: Discussing solutions before reaching agreement on the definition of the problem.
A former co-worker of mine once received a call from a family member for help with a leaking water heater.


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This individual ability to solve problems, applied in a team environment, can become a weakness as the new leader pushes strongly for a solution that others resist. If you are already engaged in a collaborative effort that has gotten stuck, you can use these questions to identify where you got off track and to get the discussion moving forward again. If you define it one way and I define it a different way, we will never agree on the solution.
If we assign different causes to the problem, we will not be able to agree on how to solve it. We want to identify as many possible solutions as possible so that we can pick the best one rather than the first one that we identify.
At this stage of the process, we agree on the criteria we will use to evaluate the possible solutions. You have a history of solving problems well, and that ability created an opportunity for you to become formally recognized as a leader.
They see the problem, they identify a solution, and they go to work trying to get everyone onboard with the solution.
All of these tools and techniques have their place in your leadership tool box, and you will probably use them all as you work to solve problems with a group. If you think the problem is a failure to close on new leads and Joe thinks that the problem is a failure to get qualified leads, your proposed solution will be totally different from Joe’s. Then, work to create buy-in for the problem definition before you even begin to discuss possible solutions. As she sought information to solve the customer’s problem, she contacted a third person who she thought would have the information and authority to correct it, and she got, from her perspective, no real assistance.
This is the community that  Kevin Eikenberry, my co-author, friend and colleague, and I launched to support readers of our book, From Bud to Boss. And, there are many situations where this approach can lead to further conflict because it fails to address the real frustration felt by the other person. In the process of looking over my notes and thinking through the planned events tomorrow, I started reflecting on a meeting that I facilitated for a client in Indiana last week.
Eighteen people with different perspectives, different backgrounds, different view points, and strong opinions. Each of these leaders is committed to the survival of the organization, and they each have different views of what their collective future looks likes. I began to get worried that we would spend too much time talking and not enough time deciding.
Quickly, in less than an hour, we listed, ranked and developed specific action plans for overcoming their biggest challenges.


Four hours of talk about different perspectives and viewpoints so that we could drive to a conclusion in just a few minutes.
I’m pretty sure that if we had tried to rush or bypass those steps, we would not have been able to come to the final decisions with the unanimity of purpose and perspective that we did that day. The time you invest in the process will come back to you many times over in the increased energy and productivity that the meeting generates. In that post, I listed a number of things common to the political process that are terrible examples of how to behave when you are really trying to solve a problem or resolve a conflict.
I am, though, a person who can observe the process and see how the current discussion has virtually no hope of arriving at a good conclusion. When people jump to discussing solutions before they discuss their respective viewpoints about how to best define the problem, they lock themselves into a negative spiral of conversation that rarely, if ever, leads to resolution. As my co-worker entered his family member’s home, he found his brother-in-law frantically mopping water from the floor trying to stay ahead of the leaking water heater.
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Create event management bar charts with Bar Graphs Solution, Business Productivity Diagramming, Business Productivity Diagramming. Will this really get me what I want?a€? In a group or organization, where the consequences can be even greater, these concerns are often intensified, along with the complications of social dynamics.
To me, the most critical of the common themes is that as social complexitya€”the number and diversity of people involveda€”increases, problem complexity increases.
Before we can reach an agreement on the best solution for the problem, we have to agree that a problem exists. For example, if we must trade quality or time in order to save costs, how much quality or time are we prepared to sacrifice to save money? The benefit in sticking with it is that the time you invest in the process will pay you back in faster and better implementation due to better buy-in, commitment, and enthusiasm.
One of the reasons I quickly moved from an individual contributor role to a supervisory position in my first civilian job after the Navy was that I knew how to solve the technical problems my team faced.
As you become a leader, though, your responsibility is less about your personal ability to solve problems and more about your ability to work with others to solve problems. In the end, you will get greater returns and better results as you release all of the creative energies of your team in a common, focused direction. If not, meet with your team in the next 24 hours to create a clear problem definition statement. I really like tech stuff, like building websites, so I take care of many technical details related to that community. Most situations have a bit of both the need for an immediate fix and some coaching about how to avoid or correct the problem in the future. I like to help other people solve their own problems so that I can equip them to better handle similar situations in the future.
My co-worker, also my friend, approached the scene and then reached over his brother-in-law’s head to shut the supply valve on the water heater. Venn diagrams represent these objects on a page as circles or ellipses, and their placement in relation to each other describes the relationships between them. Bar Graphs Example, Total Quality Management Business Diagram, Process Flowchart, Types of Flowchart - Overview, PROBLEM ANALYSIS. The process of problem solving often uses rational approach, helping to find a suitable solution. This has important implications for appropriate solution processes: the most important, complex problems society faces can only be solved through the combined wisdom of all the affected people. Consulting another person to augment your own thinking about a problem is generally beneficial. First she will need to read the simple story problems, and then write out the math to find the answers.
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