4 Steps to Solve Problems

We can't control whether or not we have problems, but we can control how we react to them. If we have a framework to solve problems, we will be more effective at work, home, and in relationships. If you are a leader, a problem solving framework will make you better as you coach your team through the process of problem solving. Below are 4 steps, along with strategies, I use to solve problems.

1-Write Out Your Problem

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.- Charles Kettering

Writing out your problem will help you take the emotion out of your problem. Many times we put our energy into our problem as opposed to putting energy into the solution. This causes strong and even physical reactions in our body. Negative energy is typically caused by fear of loss. Most problems will appear small a year from now and some hardly remembered ten years from now. Very few problems are life threatening or life altering. I recommend writing out what you believe will be the actual long term consequences of not solving the problem.

If your problem affects only you, you may want to write out your problem in a journal. If the problem affects your team, a whiteboard might be helpful. Start by clearly writing out, "What do I want to change?" Follow that statement with, "Why do I want to change it?" Next, write out the resources you have at your disposal such as friends, money, and prayer. Finally write out how much of each resource you are willing or not willing to expend to solve the problem.

2-Build a Plan with a High Probability of Success

Now that you have a good understanding of your problem, it is time to build a plan. You should compare the consequences of not solving the problem to the resources you are willing to expend so you can do a cost benefit analysis. In order to build confidence, it may also be valuable to review past problems you have solved. Don't waste time building a foolproof plan because an average plan executed well is better than a perfect plan with indecisive execution.

3-Attack your problem with Massive and Decisive Action

“A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” George Patton

I recommend starting on the first step towards solving your problem soon after developing your plan. This action will help you get over your negative emotions and build confidence that you are making progress. You should be confident you built a good plan and attack the problem with massive and decisive action. This is where the concept of 10X comes from. If you attack your problem with 10X the effort you think you need to solve the problem you are likely make progress quickly.

4-Conduct a Post Mortem

Many people focus on placing blame either on themselves or others in step one. This only gives energy to the problem. Only after the problem is solved, should you place energy on understanding what caused the problem and how to prevent the problem in the future. In this stage you should ask, "What did I learn from solving this problem? Did I develop any new skills? How can solving this problem give me more confidence in solving problems in the future?" Becoming confident in your problem solving skills builds character and will allow you to gain joy from solving future problems.