Solving ‘knotty’ problems
If you find yourself in the middle of a crisis with a big problem to solve in two hours, that is very different from a problem that has been brewing or is deeply ingrained. What pressure are you really under and how quickly must the problem be solved? Do this before you classify anything in your head as a catastrophe.
2. Get to the root cause.
Knotty problems often exist because they have been unsolved for sometime or require discipline, diligence and patience to solve. Symptom treating will get you so far. If you really want to solve a knotty problem you must define and evaluate the problem by getting to the root cause. Use well-known, trusted methods (Sigma, Lean, Inquiry etc.).
Having defined a problem if you can avoid implementing the first solution that comes to mind. Instead explore the problem, experiment with different ideas; look into non-obvious solutions. Always inform your chosen action having looked from different angles and perspectives.
4. Test in action.
In a life or death situation you might not have the luxury of testing and evaluating as you take action. Assuming your knotty problem is not life and death, be prepared to test and re-assess, adjusting as you go.
5. Reflect and monitor.
Keep an eye on how changes land. Check back, monitor and re-evaluate.
If you are solving this knotty problem alone – know your strengths. If you are working in a team – know the team strengths. If you lack strength in dealing with ambiguity, handling complexity or getting over the detail, find someone who can help you. Write down what skills you think you need and what gaps you have. Who do you know (colleagues, friends, acquaintances, experts) who might help with those gaps?
2. Stay in the drift 1.
The drift of the 5 Tips (in case you missed it) was to Identify, Define, Explore, Select, Build, Test and Evaluate. Let’s begin. Write out ‘What problem am I dealing with?’ (Identify it).
3. Stay in the drift 2.
Define your problem by writing down an outcome – the intended result if you solve the problem. Also, how might you measure success?
4. Stay in the drift 3.
Tap into your imagination (a truly awesome source of problem solving power). When you are relaxed and comfortable let your imagination wander and see what ‘off the wall’ solutions you can think of to solve your problem.
5. Be brave.
As the saying goes – don’t run away from the problem. Doing so only increases the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape a problem is to solve it.