problem solving techniques in management information system

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For this section, we will dive into the various techniques employed to find the root cause of a problem in an IT environment.

IT Problem management techniques

The problem management process can be mandated with a good service desk tool, but the techniques used for investigation and diagnosis should vary according to the organization. It's recommended that investigation techniques are flexible based on the organization's needs rather than being overly prescriptive.

Since problems can appear in any shape or size, it's impossible to stick to one technique to find a solution every time; instead, using a combination of techniques will yield the best results. A simple LAN connectivity problem might be solved with a quick brainstorming session, but a network or VoIP issue might need a deeper look.

Here are several techniques you can practice in your organization's problem management process.


Brainstorming techniques  for problem solving

By establishing a dialogue between departments, you gain various perspectives and new information, generating many potential solutions.

To have a productive brainstorming session, you need a moderator. The moderator handles the following:

  • Driving the direction of the meeting
  • Documenting the insights obtained
  • Highlighting the measures to be taken
  • Tracking the discussed deliverable
  • Preventing a time-consuming session

Brainstorming sessions are more productive when collaborative problem-solving techniques, such as Ishikawa analysis and the five whys method, are used. These techniques will be discussed later in this section.

Kepner-Tregoe method

Kepner tregoe problem solving method

The Kepner-Tregoe (K-T) method is a problem-solving and decision-making technique used in many fields due to its step-by-step approach for logically solving a problem. It's well-suited for solving complex problems in both proactive and reactive problem management.

The method follows four processes:

  • Situation appraisal: Assessment and clarification of the scenario
  • Problem analysis: Connecting cause with effect
  • Decision analysis: Weighing the alternate options
  • Potential problem analysis: Anticipating the future

However, problem analysis is the only part that concerns IT problem management, and it consists of five steps.

Define the problem

Identifying what the problem truly is can be a problem in itself. Since problem management is inherently a collaborative effort, having a comprehensive definition of the problem eliminates preconceived notions that any participating member might have, saving a considerable amount of time.

For example, if an organization's automatic data backup on a server has failed, the problem can be defined as:

Failed backup on server

This definition indeed describes the deviation from the normal situation, but it demands more questions and information. A good model of a definition should be unambiguous and easily understood.

To remove ambiguity, the above definition can be updated to:

Data backup on November 15 failed on server #34-C

This definition provides more clarity, and spares employees from redundant questions. Nevertheless, this definition can be further improved. Suppose the cause of the data backup failure can be attributed to an event such as the application of a new patch; then the initial problem analysis would undoubtedly lead to this event.

To save time and effort, let's update the definition to:

Data backup on November 15 failed on server #34-C after application of patch 3.124 by engineer Noah

This detailed definition leaves no room for redundant questions, and provides a good amount of information on where the problem could lie. These extra minutes spent on the initial definition save valuable time and effort, provide a logical sense of direction to analysis, and remove any preconceived notions about the problem.

Describe the problem

The next step is to lay out a detailed description of the problem. The K-T method provides the questions that need to be asked on any problem to help identify the possible causes.

The questions below help describe four parts of any problem:

  • What is the problem?
  • Where did the problem occur?
  • When did the problem occur?
  • To what extent did the problem occur?

Each of these questions demands two types of answers:

IS: As in, "What is the problem?" or "Where is the problem?"

COULD BE but IS NOT: As in, "Where could the problem be but is not?"

This exercise helps compare and highlight the what, where, when, and how the deviation from normal performance in business processes is happening.

Establish possible causes

The comparison between normal performance and deviated performance made in the previous step helps in shortlisting the possible causes of the problem. Making a table with all the information in one place can be helpful to make the comparison.

New possible causes become evident when the information is assembled together. For our example problem, the root cause can be narrowed down to:

Procedural error caused by the inadequate transfer of knowledge by the Level 3 engineers.

Whatever the problem, a sound analysis for possible causes can be done based on relevant comparison.

Test the most probable cause

The penultimate step is to short-list the probable causes and test them before proceeding to the conclusion. Each probable cause should follow this question:

If _______ is the root cause of this problem, does it explain what the problem IS and what the problem COULD BE but IS NOT?

Again, it's beneficial to populate all the information into a table.

Verify the true cause

The final step is to eliminate all the improbable causes and provide evidence to the most probable causes. With this verification, it's time to propose a solution to the problem. Without evidence of the possible root cause, the solution should not be attempted.

Ishikawa analysis, or fishbone diagram analysis

Fishbone analysis

Ishikawa analysis uses the fishbone framework to enumerate the cause and effects of a problem, and can be used in conjunction with brainstorming sessions and the five whys method. The simplicity in executing RCA using an Ishikawa diagram shouldn't deceive you of its prowess to handle complex problems.

To start the analysis, define the problem and use it as the head of the fishbone. Draw the spine and add the categories that the problem could be originating from as ribs to the fishbone.

Generally, it's easiest to start the categories with the four dimensions of service management: partners, processes, people, and technology. However, these categories can be anything relevant to your problem, environment, organization, or industry.

Once these categories form the ribs of the fishbone, start attaching possible causes to each category. Each possible cause can also branch out to detail the reason for that occurrence. This could lead to a complex diagram of four to five levels of causes and effects, subsequently drilling down to the root cause of the problem.

Ishikawa diagaram

It's recommended to split up dense ribs into additional ribs as required. Alternatively, merging empty ribs with other suitable ribs keeps the fishbone clean and easy to read. Additionally, you should ensure the ribs are populated with causes, not just symptoms of the problem.

This analysis is again a collaborative effort, and requires a moderator to direct the brainstorming sessions in an effective way. Every participant has the opportunity to engage, providing a comprehensive view of the problem.

Pareto analysis

Pareto analysis

The Pareto principle is an observation that approximately 80 percent of effects come from approximately 20 percent of causes. This observation applies to a wide range of subjects, including problem management.

When trying to reduce the number of incidents occurring in an organization, it's highly efficient to apply Pareto analysis before jumping into solving the problems. Pareto analysis prioritizes the causes of incidents, and helps in managing problems based on their impact and probability.

This analysis is carried out by generating a Pareto chart from a Pareto table. A Pareto table consists of the cumulative count of classification of all problems. A Pareto chart is a bar graph showing the cumulative percentage of the frequency of various classification of problems.

To create a Pareto chart, follow the steps given below:

  • Collect problem ticket data from your service desk tool.
  • Remodel the data into categories based on various attributes.
  • Create a Pareto table to find the frequency of problems in each classification over a period of time.
  • Compute the frequency of problem occurrences in each category.
  • Generate the cumulative frequency percentage in decreasing order.
  • Plot the data on a graph to create a Pareto chart.

The most important step is to remodel the data into a countable set of classifications and attributes.

Pareto chart analysis

This chart helps identify the problems that should be solved first to significantly reduce service disruption. This analysis complements the Ishikawa and Kepner-Tregoe methods by providing a way to prioritize the category of problems, while the other methods analyze the root cause.

It's important to remember that the 80/20 rule suggests likely causes, and may be incorrect at times.

Five whys technique

5 whys example

Five whys is a straightforward technique for RCA. It defines a problem statement, then repeatedly asks why until the underlying root cause of the problem is discovered. The number of whys doesn't need to be limited to five, but can be based on the problem and the situation.

The five whys technique complements many other problem-solving techniques like the Ishikawa method, Pareto analysis, and the K-T method.

Using the previous example of the data backup failure in a server, let's apply the five whys technique.

The above iterative process reveals the absence of a standardized format, which has led to the problem of data backup failure.

For our purposes, the example above is a simple execution of the method. In a real scenario, the next question depends on the answer to the previous question, so it's imperative to collaborate with stakeholders who have elaborate knowledge of the domain the problem resides in.

By adopting parts of the K-T method along with the five whys technique, such as providing evidence to each answer before validating it with a return question, you can ensure precise analysis during problem-solving sessions.

5 whys to solve problems

Other techniques

Apart from the five major techniques, there are still numerous others, each with their own unique strengths. Overall, problem investigation is carried out using a combination of techniques suitable for the situation. Some other techniques that are prevalent in the problem management community are chronological testing, fault tree analysis, the fault isolation method, hypothesis testing, and pain value analysis. It's worth taking the time to learn many techniques as your organization's problem management process matures.

You have made it so far! In our penultimate part of the six-part series, you will learn about the best practices of problem management that can help you jump past any hurdles during your problem management journey.

Reactive vs Proactive problem management

Problem management best practices

Assess your incident response readiness to kick-start your problem management journey

The zeroth step in the journey towards proactive problem management is establishing a robust incident management process in your IT environment. Discover how Zoho, our parent company, handles the spectrum of incidents thrown at it year over year and assess your incident management readiness at an enterprise scale.

Download a free copy of our incident management handbook and a best practice checklist to review your problem management solution.

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problem solving techniques in management information system

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Problem management: 8 steps to better problem solving

Alicia Raeburn contributor headshot

Problem management is an 8 step framework most commonly used by IT teams. You can use problem management to solve for repeating major incidents. By organizing and structuring your problem solving, you can more effectively get to the root cause of high-impact problems—and devise a solution. Solving the root cause prevents recurrence and creates a repeatable solution to use on similar errors in the future.

In an IT department, errors and mishaps are part of the job. You can't always control these problems, but you can control how you respond to them with problem management. Problem management helps you solve larger problems and reduce the risk that they’ll happen again by identifying all connected problems, solving them, and planning for the future.

What is problem management?

Problem management is an 8 step framework most commonly used by IT teams. Your team can use problem management to solve for repeating major incidents. By organizing and structuring your problem solving, you can more effectively get to the root cause of high-impact problems—and devise a solution. Problem management is a process—used mostly by IT teams—to identify, react, and respond to issues. It’s not for every problem, but it’s a useful response when multiple major incidents occur that cause large work interruptions. Unlike problem solving, problem management goes beyond the initial incident to discover and dissect the root causes, preventing future incidents with permanent solutions.

The goals of problem management are to:

Prevent problems before they start.

Solve for repetitive errors.

Lessen each incident’s impact. 

Problem management vs. incident management 

Example: Someone leaves their unprotected laptop in a coffee shop, causing a security breach. The security team can use incident management to solve for this one, isolated event. In this case, the team could manually shut down the accounts connected to that laptop. If this continues to happen, IT would use problem management to solve the root of this issue—perhaps installing more security features on each company laptop so that if employees lose them, no one else can access the information.

Problem management vs. problem solving

While similar in name, problem management differs slightly from problem-solving. Problem management focuses on every aspect of the incident—identifying the root cause of the problem, solving it, and prevention. Problem solving is, as the name implies, focused solely on the solution step. 

Example: You’re launching a new password management system when it crashes—again. You don’t know if anything leaked, but you know it could contain confidential information. Plus, it’s happened before. You start the problem management process to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In that process, you’ll use problem solving as a step to fix the issue. In this case, perhaps securing confidential information before you try to launch a new software.

Problem management vs. change management 

Change management targets large transitions within your workplace, good and bad. These inevitable changes aren’t always negative, so you can’t always apply problem management as a solution. That’s where change management comes in—a framework that helps you adjust to any new scenario.

Example: Your company is transitioning to a new cloud platform. The transition happens incident-free—meaning you won’t need problem management—but you can ease the transition by implementing some change management best practices. Preparing and training team members in the new software is a good place to start.

Problem management vs. project management

Project management is the framework for larger collections of work. It’s the overarching method for how you work on any project, hit goals, and get results. You can use project management to help you with problem management, but they are not the same thing. Problem management and project management work together to solve issues as part of your problem management process.

Example: During problem management, you uncover a backend security issue that needs to be addressed—employees are using storage software with outdated security measures. To solve this, you create a project and outline the tasks from start to finish. In this case, you might need to alert senior executives, get approval to remove the software, and alert employees. You create a project schedule with a defined timeline and assign the tasks to relevant teams. In this process, you identified a desired outcome—remove the unsafe software—and solved it. That’s project management.

The 8 steps of problem management

It’s easy to get upset when problems occur. In fact, it’s totally normal. But an emotional response is not always the best response when faced with new incidents. Having a reliable system—such as problem management—removes the temptation to respond emotionally. Proactive project management gives your team a framework for problem solving. It’s an iterative process —the more you use it, the more likely you are to have fewer problems, faster response times, and better outputs. 

1. Identify the problem

During problem identification, you’re looking at the present—what’s happening right now? Here, you’ll define what the incident is and its scale. Is this a small, quick-fix, or a full overhaul? Consider using problem framing to define, prioritize, and understand the obstacles involved with these more complex problems. 

2. Diagnose the cause

Use problem analysis or root cause analysis to strategically look at the cause of a problem. Follow the trail of issues all the way back to its beginnings.

To diagnose the underlying cause, you’ll want to answer:

What factors or conditions led to the incident?

Do you see related incidents? Could those be coming from the same source?

Did someone miss a step? Are processes responsible for this problem?

3. Organize and prioritize

Now it’s time to build out your framework. Use an IT project plan to organize information in a space where everyone can make and see updates in real time. The easiest way to do this is with a project management tool where you can input ‌tasks, assign deadlines, and add dependencies to ensure nothing gets missed. To better organize your process, define:

What needs to be done? 

Who’s responsible for each aspect? If no one is, can we assign someone? 

When does each piece need to be completed?

What is the final number of incidents related to this problem?

Are any of these tasks dependent on another one? Do you need to set up dependencies ?

What are your highest priorities? How do they affect our larger business goals ? 

How should you plan for this in the future?

4. Create a workaround

If the incident has stopped work or altered it, you might need to create a workaround. This is not always necessary, but temporary workarounds can keep work on track and avoid backlog while you go through the problem management steps. When these workarounds are especially effective, you can make them permanent processes.

5. Update your known error database

Every time an incident occurs, create a known error record and add it to your known error database (KEDB). Recording incidents helps you catch recurrences and logs the solution, so you know how to solve similar errors in the future. 

[product ui] Incident log example (lists)

6. Pause for change management (if necessary)

Larger, high-impact problems might require change management. For example, if you realize the problem’s root cause is a lack of staff, you might dedicate team members to help. You can use change management to help them transition their responsibilities, see how these new roles fit in with the entire team, and determine how they will collaborate moving forward.

7. Solve the problem

This is the fun part—you get to resolve problems. At this stage, you should know exactly what you’re dealing with and the steps you need to take. But remember—with problem management, it’s not enough to solve the current problem. You’ll want to take any steps to prevent this from happening again in the future. That could mean hiring a new role to cover gaps in workflows , investing in new softwares and tools, or training staff on best practices to prevent these types of incidents.

Read: Turn your team into skilled problem solvers with these problem-solving strategies

8. Reflect on the process

The problem management process has the added benefit of recording the process in its entirety, so you can review it in the future. Once you’ve solved the problem, take the time to review each step and reflect on the lessons learned during this process. Make note of who was involved, what you needed, and any opportunities to improve your response to the next incident. After you go through the problem management process a few times and understand the basic steps, stakeholders, workload, and resources you need, create a template to make the kickoff process easier in the future.

5 benefits of problem management

Problem management helps you discover every piece of the problem—from the current scenario down to its root cause. Not only does this have an immediate positive impact on the current issue at hand, it also promotes collaboration and helps to build a better product overall. 

Here are five other ways ‌problem management can benefit your team:

Avoids repeat incidents. When you manage the entire incident from start to finish, you will address the foundational problems that caused it. This leads to fewer repeat incidents.

Boosts cross-functional collaboration. Problem management is a collaborative process. One incident might require collaboration from IT, the security team, and legal. Depending on the level of the problem, it might trickle all the way back down to the product or service team, where core changes need to be made.

Creates a better user experience. It’s simple—the fewer incidents you have, the better your customer’s experience will be. Reducing incidents means fewer delays, downtime, and frustrations for your users, and a higher rate of customer satisfaction.

Improves response time. As you develop a flow and framework with a project management process, you’ll be better equipped to handle future incidents—even if they’re different scenarios.

Organizes problem solving. Problem management provides a structured, thoughtful approach to solving problems. This reduces impulsive responses and helps you keep a better problem record of incidents and solutions.

Problem management leads to better, faster solutions

IT teams will always have to deal with incidents, but they don’t have to be bogged down by them. That’s because problem management works. Whether you employ a full problem management team or choose to apply these practices to your current IT infrastructure, problem management—especially when combined with a project management tool—saves you time and effort down the road.

With IT project plans, we’ve made it easier than ever to track your problem management work in a shared tool. Try our free IT project template to see your work come together, effortlessly.

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problem solving techniques in management information system

1.2 Problem Solving: The Most Important Skill in Information Systems

An example of a problem solving that instead exploits an opportunity is a brick and mortar business, such as a furniture store, that sees an opportunity to increase sales by adding the ability to sell online. An IS professional exploits that opportunity by determining and designing the best option for selling online. Designing a solution to the opportunity facing the furniture store is considered “problem solving.”

Related to problem solving, employers have indicated the main capabilities expected of all IS graduates. 1 These include the ability to:

Improve Organizational Processes

Exploit Opportunities Created by Technology Innovations

Understand and Address Information Requirements

Identify and Evaluate Solution and Sourcing Alternatives

Design and Manage Enterprise Architecture

Secure Data and Infrastructure

Understand, Manage, and Control IT Risks

The capabilities in the list above may be somewhat unfamiliar to you right now, but recognize that the ones that have been italicized require problem-solving skills. Therefore, regardless of the IS classes that an IS graduate may take when completing a degree, over half of the capabilities employers expect of graduates involve the ability to solve problems in a technology context. For example, improving organizational processes means that an IS professional needs to first understand what is wrong with an organizational process, and then design a solution. Similarly, exploiting an opportunity means that an IS professional must understand the opportunity, then design a solution with a technology that takes advantage of the opportunity. Understanding and addressing information requirements means that an IS professional needs to understand what is wanted from stakeholders, and then meet those wants through a solution that the professional designs. Lastly, identifying and evaluating solutions and sourcing alternatives means that an IS professional first understands a problem to be solved, and then thoughtfully selects the best way to solve the problem, which will include alternatives such as either building custom software from scratch or buying existing software that other software companies have already created.

The job placement statistics for IS graduates provide further evidence of the importance of problem-solving skills. According to a 2019 job index report sponsored by AIS and Temple University, the leading job categories for graduates include the following: 2

IT Consulting

Computer Systems Analyst

Data Analytics

Software Development

Information Security

The primary responsibility of professionals working in IT Consulting and Computer Systems Analyst jobs is to solve problems for organizations using technology. Together, these two job categories represent over one-fourth of the jobs in IS. Other job roles in IS also require significant problem-solving skills, even if those skills aren't considered a primary responsibility. Consider the role of a software developer. They might think of their job as merely writing code, but in reality, they are asked to do far more than this by providing solutions to important organizational problems. For example, they may be asked to solve the business problem of not having web-based payment options for customers, or they may be asked to solve the problem of expensive and inefficient public transportation (think of Uber as a solution), or they may be asked to solve the problem of a sales team that has no means of accessing organizational data when they are away from the office (see Vignette 1.2 for an example of a problem that was solved in a university setting).

Any time a developer is required to build a solution to a problem, they first have to research it and determine what they need to do. In other words, they have to solve the problem conceptually before they can physically implement its solution. That is precisely what this book teaches IS professionals to do: solve problems conceptually before implementing them physically.

One type of organization all students are familiar with is a university, and one task they are all familiar with is registering for classes. Today, most students enjoy the relative ease of course registration. It involves an electronic list of courses available, and often it reveals the number of seats still available in a given section of a course. Adding and dropping a class can be as easy as clicking a button.

However, it wasn’t always so simple. Students used to fill out cards for classes that they wanted to register for and then have to wait in lines for each class to submit their cards. Imagine the number of headaches this caused: needing to be in a physical location to submit your card, finding out the class you wanted was full when you got to the front of the line, selecting another class, and starting the process all over again. Moving class registration online wasn’t just a technical task (e.g., programming a website); it was also a way to remove a lot of pain points for a lot of people—it was solving a problem. Just as IS professionals have solved a registration problem for universities, IS professionals today help organizations address an ever-evolving list of problems.

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Learn Creative Problem Solving Techniques to Stimulate Innovation in Your Organization

By Kate Eby | October 20, 2017 (updated August 27, 2021)

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In today’s competitive business landscape, organizations need processes in place to make strong, well-informed, and innovative decisions. Problem solving - in particular creative problem solving (CPS) - is a key skill in learning how to accurately identify problems and their causes, generate potential solutions, and evaluate all the possibilities to arrive at a strong corrective course of action. Every team in any organization, regardless of department or industry, needs to be effective, creative, and quick when solving problems. 

In this article, we’ll discuss traditional and creative problem solving, and define the steps, best practices, and common barriers associated. After that, we’ll provide helpful methods and tools to identify the cause(s) of problematic situations, so you can get to the root of the issue and start to generate solutions. Then, we offer nearly 20 creative problem solving techniques to implement at your organization, or even in your personal life. Along the way, experts weigh in on the importance of problem solving, and offer tips and tricks. 

What Is Problem Solving and Decision Making?

Problem solving is the process of working through every aspect of an issue or challenge to reach a solution. Decision making is choosing one of multiple proposed solutions  — therefore, this process also includes defining and evaluating all potential options. Decision making is often one step of the problem solving process, but the two concepts are distinct. 

Collective problem solving is problem solving that includes many different parties and bridges the knowledge of different groups. Collective problem solving is common in business problem solving because workplace decisions typically affect more than one person. 

Problem solving, especially in business, is a complicated science. Not only are business conflicts multifaceted, but they often involve different personalities, levels of authority, and group dynamics. In recent years, however, there has been a rise in psychology-driven problem solving techniques, especially for the workplace. In fact, the psychology of how people solve problems is now studied formally in academic disciplines such as psychology and cognitive science.

Joe Carella

Joe Carella is the Assistant Dean for Executive Education at the University of Arizona . Joe has over 20 years of experience in helping executives and corporations in managing change and developing successful business strategies. His doctoral research and executive education engagements have seen him focus on corporate strategy, decision making and business performance with a variety of corporate clients including Hershey’s, Chevron, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Intel, DP World, Essilor, BBVA Compass Bank.

He explains some of the basic psychology behind problem solving: “When our brain is engaged in the process of solving problems, it is engaged in a series of steps where it processes and organizes the information it receives while developing new knowledge it uses in future steps. Creativity is embedded in this process by incorporating diverse inputs and/or new ways of organizing the information received.”

Laura MacLeod

Laura MacLeod is a Professor of Social Group Work at City University of New York, and the creator of From The Inside Out Project® , a program that coaches managers in team leadership for a variety of workplaces. She has a background in social work and over two decades of experience as a union worker, and currently leads talks on conflict resolution, problem solving, and listening skills at conferences across the country. 

MacLeod thinks of problem solving as an integral practice of successful organizations. “Problem solving is a collaborative process — all voices are heard and connected, and resolution is reached by the group,” she says. “Problems and conflicts occur in all groups and teams in the workplace, but if leaders involve everyone in working through, they will foster cohesion, engagement, and buy in. Everybody wins.”

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What Is the First Step in Solving a Problem?

Although problem solving techniques vary procedurally, experts agree that the first step in solving a problem is defining the problem. Without a clear articulation of the problem at stake, it is impossible to analyze all the key factors and actors, generate possible solutions, and then evaluate them to pick the best option. 

Elliott Jaffa

Dr. Elliott Jaffa is a behavioral and management psychologist with over 25 years of problem solving training and management experience. “Start with defining the problem you want to solve,” he says, “And then define where you want to be, what you want to come away with.” He emphasizes these are the first steps in creating an actionable, clear solution. 

Bryan Mattimore

Bryan Mattimore is Co-Founder of Growth Engine, an 18-year old innovation agency based in Norwalk, CT. Bryan has facilitated over 1,000 ideation sessions and managed over 200 successful innovation projects leading to over $3 billion in new sales. His newest book is 21 Days to a Big Idea . When asked about the first critical component to successful problem solving, Mattimore says, “Defining the challenge correctly, or ‘solving the right problem’ … The three creative techniques we use to help our clients ‘identify the right problem to be solved’ are questioning assumptions, 20 questions, and problem redefinition. A good example of this was a new product challenge from a client to help them ‘invent a new iron. We got them to redefine the challenge as first: a) inventing new anti-wrinkle devices, and then b) inventing new garment care devices.”

What Are Problem Solving Skills?

To understand the necessary skills in problem solving, you should first understand the types of thinking often associated with strong decision making. Most problem solving techniques look for a balance between the following binaries:

  • Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking: Convergent thinking is bringing together disparate information or ideas to determine a single best answer or solution. This thinking style values logic, speed, and accuracy, and leaves no chance for ambiguity. Divergent thinking is focused on generating new ideas to identify and evaluate multiple possible solutions, often uniting ideas in unexpected combinations. Divergent thinking is characterized by creativity, complexity, curiosity, flexibility, originality, and risk-taking.
  • Pragmatics vs. Semantics: Pragmatics refer to the logic of the problem at hand, and semantics is how you interpret the problem to solve it. Both are important to yield the best possible solution.
  • Mathematical vs. Personal Problem Solving: Mathematical problem solving involves logic (usually leading to a single correct answer), and is useful for problems that involve numbers or require an objective, clear-cut solution. However, many workplace problems also require personal problem solving, which includes interpersonal, collaborative, and emotional intuition and skills. 

The following basic methods are fundamental problem solving concepts. Implement them to help balance the above thinking models.

  • Reproductive Thinking: Reproductive thinking uses past experience to solve a problem. However, be careful not to rely too heavily on past solutions, and to evaluate current problems individually, with their own factors and parameters. 
  • Idea Generation: The process of generating many possible courses of action to identify a solution. This is most commonly a team exercise because putting everyone’s ideas on the table will yield the greatest number of potential solutions. 

However, many of the most critical problem solving skills are “soft” skills: personal and interpersonal understanding, intuitiveness, and strong listening. 

Mattimore expands on this idea: “The seven key skills to be an effective creative problem solver that I detail in my book Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs are: 1) curiosity 2) openness 3) a willingness to embrace ambiguity 4) the ability to identify and transfer principles across categories and disciplines 5) the desire to search for integrity in ideas, 6) the ability to trust and exercise “knowingness” and 7) the ability to envision new worlds (think Dr. Seuss, Star Wars, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc.).”

“As an individual contributor to problem solving it is important to exercise our curiosity, questioning, and visioning abilities,” advises Carella. “As a facilitator it is essential to allow for diverse ideas to emerge, be able to synthesize and ‘translate’ other people’s thinking, and build an extensive network of available resources.”

MacLeod says the following interpersonal skills are necessary to effectively facilitate group problem solving: “The abilities to invite participation (hear all voices, encourage silent members), not take sides, manage dynamics between the monopolizer, the scapegoat, and the bully, and deal with conflict (not avoiding it or shutting down).” 

Furthermore, Jaffa explains that the skills of a strong problem solver aren’t measurable. The best way to become a creative problem solver, he says, is to do regular creative exercises that keep you sharp and force you to think outside the box. Carella echoes this sentiment: “Neuroscience tells us that creativity comes from creating novel neural paths. Allow a few minutes each day to exercise your brain with novel techniques and brain ‘tricks’ – read something new, drive to work via a different route, count backwards, smell a new fragrance, etc.”

What Is Creative Problem Solving? History, Evolution, and Core Principles

Creative problem solving (CPS) is a method of problem solving in which you approach a problem or challenge in an imaginative, innovative way. The goal of CPS is to come up with innovative solutions, make a decision, and take action quickly. Sidney Parnes and Alex Osborn are credited with developing the creative problem solving process in the 1950s. The concept was further studied and developed at SUNY Buffalo State and the Creative Education Foundation. 

The core principles of CPS include the following:

  • Balance divergent and convergent thinking
  • Ask problems as questions
  • Defer or suspend judgement
  • Focus on “Yes, and…” rather than “No, but…”

According to Carella, “Creative problem solving is the mental process used for generating innovative and imaginative ideas as a solution to a problem or a challenge. Creative problem solving techniques can be pursued by individuals or groups.”

When asked to define CPS, Jaffa explains that it is, by nature, difficult to create boundaries for. “Creative problem solving is not cut and dry,” he says, “If you ask 100 different people the definition of creative problem solving, you’ll get 100 different responses - it’s a non-entity.”

Business presents a unique need for creative problem solving. Especially in today’s competitive landscape, organizations need to iterate quickly, innovate with intention, and constantly be at the cutting-edge of creativity and new ideas to succeed. Developing CPS skills among your workforce not only enables you to make faster, stronger in-the-moment decisions, but also inspires a culture of collaborative work and knowledge sharing. When people work together to generate multiple novel ideas and evaluate solutions, they are also more likely to arrive at an effective decision, which will improve business processes and reduce waste over time. In fact, CPS is so important that some companies now list creative problem solving skills as a job criteria.

MacLeod reiterates the vitality of creative problem solving in the workplace. “Problem solving is crucial for all groups and teams,” she says. “Leaders need to know how to guide the process, hear all voices and involve all members - it’s not easy.”

“This mental process [of CPS] is especially helpful in work environments where individuals and teams continuously struggle with new problems and challenges posed by their continuously changing environment,” adds Carella. 

Problem Solving Best Practices

By nature, creative problem solving does not have a clear-cut set of do’s and don’ts. Rather, creating a culture of strong creative problem solvers requires flexibility, adaptation, and interpersonal skills. However, there are a several best practices that you should incorporate:

  • Use a Systematic Approach: Regardless of the technique you use, choose a systematic method that satisfies your workplace conditions and constraints (time, resources, budget, etc.). Although you want to preserve creativity and openness to new ideas, maintaining a structured approach to the process will help you stay organized and focused. 
  • View Problems as Opportunities: Rather than focusing on the negatives or giving up when you encounter barriers, treat problems as opportunities to enact positive change on the situation. In fact, some experts even recommend defining problems as opportunities, to remain proactive and positive.
  • Change Perspective: Remember that there are multiple ways to solve any problem. If you feel stuck, changing perspective can help generate fresh ideas. A perspective change might entail seeking advice of a mentor or expert, understanding the context of a situation, or taking a break and returning to the problem later. “A sterile or familiar environment can stifle new thinking and new perspectives,” says Carella. “Make sure you get out to draw inspiration from spaces and people out of your usual reach.”
  • Break Down Silos: To invite the greatest possible number of perspectives to any problem, encourage teams to work cross-departmentally. This not only combines diverse expertise, but also creates a more trusting and collaborative environment, which is essential to effective CPS. According to Carella, “Big challenges are always best tackled by a group of people rather than left to a single individual. Make sure you create a space where the team can concentrate and convene.”
  • Employ Strong Leadership or a Facilitator: Some companies choose to hire an external facilitator that teaches problem solving techniques, best practices, and practicums to stimulate creative problem solving. But, internal managers and staff can also oversee these activities. Regardless of whether the facilitator is internal or external, choose a strong leader who will value others’ ideas and make space for creative solutions.  Mattimore has specific advice regarding the role of a facilitator: “When facilitating, get the group to name a promising idea (it will crystalize the idea and make it more memorable), and facilitate deeper rather than broader. Push for not only ideas, but how an idea might specifically work, some of its possible benefits, who and when would be interested in an idea, etc. This fleshing-out process with a group will generate fewer ideas, but at the end of the day will yield more useful concepts that might be profitably pursued.” Additionally, Carella says that “Executives and managers don’t necessarily have to be creative problem solvers, but need to make sure that their teams are equipped with the right tools and resources to make this happen. Also they need to be able to foster an environment where failing fast is accepted and celebrated.”
  • Evaluate Your Current Processes: This practice can help you unlock bottlenecks, and also identify gaps in your data and information management, both of which are common roots of business problems.

MacLeod offers the following additional advice, “Always get the facts. Don’t jump too quickly to a solution – working through [problems] takes time and patience.”

Mattimore also stresses that how you introduce creative problem solving is important. “Do not start by introducing a new company-wide innovation process,” he says. “Instead, encourage smaller teams to pursue specific creative projects, and then build a process from the ground up by emulating these smaller teams’ successful approaches. We say: ‘You don’t innovate by changing the culture, you change the culture by innovating.’”

Barriers to Effective Problem Solving

Learning how to effectively solve problems is difficult and takes time and continual adaptation. There are several common barriers to successful CPS, including:

  • Confirmation Bias: The tendency to only search for or interpret information that confirms a person’s existing ideas. People misinterpret or disregard data that doesn’t align with their beliefs.
  • Mental Set: People’s inclination to solve problems using the same tactics they have used to solve problems in the past. While this can sometimes be a useful strategy (see Analogical Thinking in a later section), it often limits inventiveness and creativity.
  • Functional Fixedness: This is another form of narrow thinking, where people become “stuck” thinking in a certain way and are unable to be flexible or change perspective.
  • Unnecessary Constraints: When people are overwhelmed with a problem, they can invent and impose additional limits on solution avenues. To avoid doing this, maintain a structured, level-headed approach to evaluating causes, effects, and potential solutions.
  • Groupthink: Be wary of the tendency for group members to agree with each other — this might be out of conflict avoidance, path of least resistance, or fear of speaking up. While this agreeableness might make meetings run smoothly, it can actually stunt creativity and idea generation, therefore limiting the success of your chosen solution.
  • Irrelevant Information: The tendency to pile on multiple problems and factors that may not even be related to the challenge at hand. This can cloud the team’s ability to find direct, targeted solutions.
  • Paradigm Blindness: This is found in people who are unwilling to adapt or change their worldview, outlook on a particular problem, or typical way of processing information. This can erode the effectiveness of problem solving techniques because they are not aware of the narrowness of their thinking, and therefore cannot think or act outside of their comfort zone.

According to Jaffa, the primary barrier of effective problem solving is rigidity. “The most common things people say are, ‘We’ve never done it before,’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” While these feelings are natural, Jaffa explains that this rigid thinking actually precludes teams from identifying creative, inventive solutions that result in the greatest benefit.

“The biggest barrier to creative problem solving is a lack of awareness – and commitment to – training employees in state-of-the-art creative problem-solving techniques,” Mattimore explains. “We teach our clients how to use ideation techniques (as many as two-dozen different creative thinking techniques) to help them generate more and better ideas. Ideation techniques use specific and customized stimuli, or ‘thought triggers’ to inspire new thinking and new ideas.” 

MacLeod adds that ineffective or rushed leadership is another common culprit. “We're always in a rush to fix quickly,” she says. “Sometimes leaders just solve problems themselves, making unilateral decisions to save time. But the investment is well worth it — leaders will have less on their plates if they can teach and eventually trust the team to resolve. Teams feel empowered and engagement and investment increases.”

Strategies for Problem Cause Identification

As discussed, most experts agree that the first and most crucial step in problem solving is defining the problem. Once you’ve done this, however, it may not be appropriate to move straight to the solution phase. Rather, it is often helpful to identify the cause(s) of the problem: This will better inform your solution planning and execution, and help ensure that you don’t fall victim to the same challenges in the future. 

Below are some of the most common strategies for identifying the cause of a problem:

  • Root Cause Analysis: This method helps identify the most critical cause of a problem. A factor is considered a root cause if removing it prevents the problem from recurring. Performing a root cause analysis is a 12 step process that includes: define the problem, gather data on the factors contributing to the problem, group the factors based on shared characteristics, and create a cause-and-effect timeline to determine the root cause. After that, you identify and evaluate corrective actions to eliminate the root cause.

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Problem Solving Techniques and Strategies

In this section, we’ll explain several traditional and creative problem solving methods that you can use to identify challenges, create actionable goals, and resolve problems as they arise. Although there is often procedural and objective crossover among techniques, they are grouped by theme so you can identify which method works best for your organization.

Divergent Creative Problem Solving Techniques

Brainstorming: One of the most common methods of divergent thinking, brainstorming works best in an open group setting where everyone is encouraged to share their creative ideas. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible – you analyze, critique, and evaluate the ideas only after the brainstorming session is complete. To learn more specific brainstorming techniques, read this article . 

Mind Mapping: This is a visual thinking tool where you graphically depict concepts and their relation to one another. You can use mind mapping to structure the information you have, analyze and synthesize it, and generate solutions and new ideas from there. The goal of a mind map is to simplify complicated problems so you can more clearly identify solutions.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI): The basic assumption of AI is that “an organization is a mystery to be embraced.” Using this principle, AI takes a positive, inquisitive approach to identifying the problem, analyzing the causes, and presenting possible solutions. The five principles of AI emphasize dialogue, deliberate language and outlook, and social bonding. 

Lateral Thinking: This is an indirect problem solving approach centered on the momentum of idea generation. As opposed to critical thinking, where people value ideas based on their truth and the absence of errors, lateral thinking values the “movement value” of new ideas: This means that you reward team members for producing a large volume of new ideas rapidly. With this approach, you’ll generate many new ideas before approving or rejecting any.

Problem Solving Techniques to Change Perspective

Constructive Controversy: This is a structured approach to group decision making to preserve critical thinking and disagreement while maintaining order. After defining the problem and presenting multiple courses of action, the group divides into small advocacy teams who research, analyze, and refute a particular option. Once each advocacy team has presented its best-case scenario, the group has a discussion (advocacy teams still defend their presented idea). Arguing and playing devil’s advocate is encouraged to reach an understanding of the pros and cons of each option. Next, advocacy teams abandon their cause and evaluate the options openly until they reach a consensus. All team members formally commit to the decision, regardless of whether they advocated for it at the beginning. You can learn more about the goals and steps in constructive controversy here . 

Carella is a fan of this approach. “Create constructive controversy by having two teams argue the pros and cons of a certain idea,” he says. “It forces unconscious biases to surface and gives space for new ideas to formulate.”

Abstraction: In this method, you apply the problem to a fictional model of the current situation. Mapping an issue to an abstract situation can shed extraneous or irrelevant factors, and reveal places where you are overlooking obvious solutions or becoming bogged down by circumstances. 

Analogical Thinking: Also called analogical reasoning , this method relies on an analogy: using information from one problem to solve another problem (these separate problems are called domains). It can be difficult for teams to create analogies among unrelated problems, but it is a strong technique to help you identify repeated issues, zoom out and change perspective, and prevent the problems from occurring in the future. .

CATWOE: This framework ensures that you evaluate the perspectives of those whom your decision will impact. The factors and questions to consider include (which combine to make the acronym CATWOE):

  • Customers: Who is on the receiving end of your decisions? What problem do they currently have, and how will they react to your proposed solution?
  • Actors: Who is acting to bring your solution to fruition? How will they respond and be affected by your decision?
  • Transformation Process: What processes will you employ to transform your current situation and meet your goals? What are the inputs and outputs?
  • World View: What is the larger context of your proposed solution? What is the larger, big-picture problem you are addressing?
  • Owner: Who actually owns the process? How might they influence your proposed solution (positively or negatively), and how can you influence them to help you?
  • Environmental Constraints: What are the limits (environmental, resource- and budget-wise, ethical, legal, etc.) on your ideas? How will you revise or work around these constraints?

Complex Problem Solving

Soft Systems Methodology (SSM): For extremely complex problems, SSM can help you identify how factors interact, and determine the best course of action. SSM was borne out of organizational process modeling and general systems theory, which hold that everything is part of a greater, interconnected system: This idea works well for “hard” problems (where logic and a single correct answer are prioritized), and less so for “soft” problems (i.e., human problems where factors such as personality, emotions, and hierarchy come into play). Therefore, SSM defines a seven step process for problem solving: 

  • Begin with the problem or problematic situation 
  • Express the problem or situation and build a rich picture of the themes of the problem 
  • Identify the root causes of the problem (most commonly with CATWOE)
  • Build conceptual models of human activity surrounding the problem or situation
  • Compare models with real-world happenings
  • Identify changes to the situation that are both feasible and desirable
  • Take action to implement changes and improve the problematic situation

SSM can be used for any complex soft problem, and is also a useful tool in change management . 

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): This method helps teams anticipate potential problems and take steps to mitigate them. Use FMEA when you are designing (redesigning) a complex function, process, product, or service. First, identify the failure modes, which are the possible ways that a project could fail. Then, perform an effects analysis to understand the consequences of each of the potential downfalls. This exercise is useful for internalizing the severity of each potential failure and its effects so you can make adjustments or safeties in your plan. 

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Problem Solving Based on Data or Logic (Heuristic Methods)

TRIZ: A Russian-developed problem solving technique that values logic, analysis, and forecasting over intuition or soft reasoning. TRIZ (translated to “theory of inventive problem solving” or TIPS in English) is a systematic approach to defining and identifying an inventive solution to difficult problems. The method offers several strategies for arriving at an inventive solution, including a contradictions matrix to assess trade-offs among solutions, a Su-Field analysis which uses formulas to describe a system by its structure, and ARIZ (algorithm of inventive problem solving) which uses algorithms to find inventive solutions. 

Inductive Reasoning: A logical method that uses evidence to conclude that a certain answer is probable (this is opposed to deductive reasoning, where the answer is assumed to be true). Inductive reasoning uses a limited number of observations to make useful, logical conclusions (for example, the Scientific Method is an extreme example of inductive reasoning). However, this method doesn’t always map well to human problems in the workplace — in these instances, managers should employ intuitive inductive reasoning , which allows for more automatic, implicit conclusions so that work can progress. This, of course, retains the principle that these intuitive conclusions are not necessarily the one and only correct answer. 

Process-Oriented Problem Solving Methods

Plan Do Check Act (PDCA): This is an iterative management technique used to ensure continual improvement of products or processes. First, teams plan (establish objectives to meet desired end results), then do (implement the plan, new processes, or produce the output), then check (compare expected with actual results), and finally act (define how the organization will act in the future, based on the performance and knowledge gained in the previous three steps). 

Means-End Analysis (MEA): The MEA strategy is to reduce the difference between the current (problematic) state and the goal state. To do so, teams compile information on the multiple factors that contribute to the disparity between the current and goal states. Then they try to change or eliminate the factors one by one, beginning with the factor responsible for the greatest difference in current and goal state. By systematically tackling the multiple factors that cause disparity between the problem and desired outcome, teams can better focus energy and control each step of the process. 

Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model: This technique was developed by Tim Hurson, and is detailed in his 2007 book Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking . The model outlines six steps that are meant to give structure while maintaining creativity and critical thinking: 1) Ask “What is going on?” 2) Ask “What is success?” 3) Ask “What is the question?” 4) Generate answers 5) Forge the solution 6) Align resources. 

Control Influence Accept (CIA): The basic premise of CIA is that how you respond to problems determines how successful you will be in overcoming them. Therefore, this model is both a problem solving technique and stress-management tool that ensures you aren’t responding to problems in a reactive and unproductive way. The steps in CIA include:

  • Control: Identify the aspects of the problem that are within your control.
  • Influence: Identify the aspects of the problem that you cannot control, but that you can influence.
  • Accept: Identify the aspects of the problem that you can neither control nor influence, and react based on this composite information. 

GROW Model: This is a straightforward problem solving method for goal setting that clearly defines your goals and current situation, and then asks you to define the potential solutions and be realistic about your chosen course of action. The steps break down as follows:

  • Goal: What do you want?
  • Reality: Where are you now?
  • Options: What could you do?
  • Will: What will you do?

OODA Loop: This acronym stands for observe, orient, decide, and act. This approach is a decision-making cycle that values agility and flexibility over raw human force. It is framed as a loop because of the understanding that any team will continually encounter problems or opponents to success and have to overcome them.

There are also many un-named creative problem solving techniques that follow a sequenced series of steps. While the exact steps vary slightly, they all follow a similar trajectory and aim to accomplish similar goals of problem, cause, and goal identification, idea generation, and active solution implementation.

MacLeod offers her own problem solving procedure, which echoes the above steps:

“1. Recognize the Problem: State what you see. Sometimes the problem is covert. 2. Identify: Get the facts — What exactly happened? What is the issue? 3. and 4. Explore and Connect: Dig deeper and encourage group members to relate their similar experiences. Now you're getting more into the feelings and background [of the situation], not just the facts.  5. Possible Solutions: Consider and brainstorm ideas for resolution. 6. Implement: Choose a solution and try it out — this could be role play and/or a discussion of how the solution would be put in place.  7. Evaluate: Revisit to see if the solution was successful or not.”

Many of these problem solving techniques can be used in concert with one another, or multiple can be appropriate for any given problem. It’s less about facilitating a perfect CPS session, and more about encouraging team members to continually think outside the box and push beyond personal boundaries that inhibit their innovative thinking. So, try out several methods, find those that resonate best with your team, and continue adopting new techniques and adapting your processes along the way. 

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Published: 10 April 2024 Contributor: Camilo Quiroz-Vázquez

Problem management is the process of identifying, managing and finding solutions for the root causes of incidents on an IT service. Problem management is a critical aspect of IT service management (ITSM).

The problem management process is both proactive and reactive and improves an IT team’s ability to find the root cause of issues while offering continuous service delivery to users. Crucially, problem management goes beyond identifying issues and delivering a quick fix; successful problem management operates on a comprehensive understanding of all underlying factors that contribute to incidents and solutions that address the root cause.

IT operations  (ITOps) involves managing a complex system of interdependent applications, software, hardware, IT infrastructure and other technologies. Ideally, incidents and problems would not occur in the first place, but when they do, it is necessary to solve issues and identify known errors before they cascade into larger ones. Service disruptions prevent organizations from providing continual service improvements and can cause serious reputational and financial issues.

Proactive problem management helps enterprises stop problems before they occur and reduce downtime.  IT automation solutions help manage the impact of incidents by automating incident detection and the workflows that lead to resolution. IT issues can include long load times, inefficient or broken code, or database queries that fetch unnecessary data. Proactively addressing problems leads to reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction.

Effective problem management requires observability into IT systems and rigorous categorization of problems and incidents. By classifying instances that might lead to major incidents, organizations can address issues likely to have the largest business impact. Problem management strategies address incidents across an organization’s tech stack and compel organizations to explore better ways to address incidents across operations.

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Problem management requires a well-thought-out approach to ensure that teams are allocating resources as efficiently as possible. Problem management teams and other stakeholders use several levers to address problems effectively and efficiently. These levers help teams identify the root cause of the problem and create solutions that can stop the problem from recurring.

Most problem management approaches follow a similar pattern of assessment, logging, analysis and solution.

IT professionals identify recurring incidents that are classified as problems, often by using automation . Automated systems help find anomalies by sifting through large data sets and identifying data points that might be out of the ordinary.

Anomalous data can lead IT team members to the potential causes of incidents. Incident reports and automated notifications are sent to the service desk, which can identify whether the incident is new or if a team has identified and resolved it in the past.

Teams or automated systems identify and categorize incidents as problem records or as unrelated issues likely to occur again. This categorization helps an organization determine whether it can solve a problem immediately or if the problem requires deeper analysis.

Problem management teams log problems, often by using self-service platforms, and create problem records. Problem records consist of comprehensive accounting for the problem, including any related incidents, where and how the problem occurred, the root cause analysis and the solution. This logging system creates a known error record and enters it into the known error database (KEDB). Enterprises should connect their problem-management and knowledge management approaches. Knowledge management creates a library of solutions for known problems.

Organizations study the underlying issues behind identified problems and develop roadmaps leading to long-term solutions. Understanding the root cause allows organizations to prevent the problem from repeating, reducing the long-term impact.

When an IT team understands the problem and its root cause, it can address the problem (also known as problem control) and find a resolution. This can involve a quick or protracted response depending on the severity or complexity of the problem. Quick resolutions are made by finding workarounds that shorten downtimes while IT teams find the root cause.

Problem management can also use templates, such as ones focused on escalation information and problem reviews, to minimize human resources previously dedicated to key problem management tasks.

Error control is another facet of problem control. Error control focuses on finding resolutions to known errors with the goal of removing them from the known error database (KEDB).

The goal of problem management is to minimize downtime, increase efficiency and improve service delivery. Some of the more impactful benefits of problem management include:

Identifying the underlying cause of incidents is an important part of  cyberrisk management . Organizations that merely patch or resolve individual incidents without exploring their root cause might be overlooking significant security issues. Problem management teams can work in coordination with security professionals to understand which incidents and problems result from malicious actors or security flaws, both of which can create major problems for an organization.

Customer retention relies on the consistent delivery of quality services. Sustained downtime and the inability to access applications or websites can drive customers elsewhere. By prioritizing problem identification and problem resolution, organizations can minimize downtime and increase customer satisfaction.

Organizations that prioritize knowledge management, the process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information in a knowledge base, as part of their problem management approach have a better chance of avoiding repeat incidents. By capturing this information in a problem record, organizations can create known error databases so they can avoid future incidents and create permanent solutions.

Implementing problem management strategies helps maintain the efficiency of IT departments and improve employee experience . Problem management prevents employees from having to repeatedly fix and maintain the same issues, allowing them to boost productivity on higher value work.

Problem management and incident management are closely related processes. IT departments perform both functions with the goal of providing continuous service and eradicating issues. The main difference between these two functions lies in the technical definitions of “incident” and “problem.”

  •   An incident is a singular event that causes a disruption and hinders a system’s ability to deliver a specific service. 
  • Problems are the root cause of that incident. A problem can consist of a single incident or multiple concurring incidents.

The incident management process has its roots in the IT service desk , which provides a single point of contact between IT operations and users, and handles the entire lifecycle of IT service delivery. Incident resolution happens reactively and involves quickly resolving incidents before they disrupt service. Problem management is concerned with finding the underlying cause of each incident and offering a permanent solution to the cause of the problem. IT teams set standards for problem analysis, allowing them to trace the root cause of incidents. The most effective problem management strategies are proactive and can identify the potential cause of a problem before it occurs. 

Efficient problem management strategies involve an emphasis on knowledge management. Knowledge management strategies use organizational experience to resolve issues more quickly or avoid them entirely. Robust documentation of solutions, protocols and common workarounds is a key aspect of knowledge management. IT departments store documentation in a centralized location and ensure that documentation is easily accessible across teams. Knowledge management repositories help IT teams focus on more complex work and the optimization of existing services. They are also an important tool for proactive problem management.

A problem management team can either engage in reactive or proactive problem management, depending on what incidents they observe and what historical data they have. Reactive problem management is concerned with identifying the problem when it occurs and solving it as quickly as possible. The problem must first occur before organizations can apply reactive problem management.

Proactive problem management involves more investigative work on why a problem is occurring and creating a solution to prevent it from happening again. The more proactive an enterprise can be, the more likely it is to avoid large issues, security threats and service interruptions.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a repository of best practices for optimizing IT operations and improving service level functions. The ITIL is an integral part of the configuration management database (CMDB), which is the centralized authority for every component needed to provide and manage IT services. IT teams use the ITIL when implementing IT service management (ITSM).

ITSM is how an organization ensures its IT services work in the way that its users and business need them to work. ITSM strategy aims to enable and maintain optimal deployment, operation and management of IT resources. Problem management is a core component of ITSM. ITIL is the most widely adopted guidance framework for implementing and documenting ITSM.

ITIL problem management uses ITIL processes to minimize the foundational work that addressing any one problem requires. Many problems that organizations face, such as server outages and cybersecurity issues, have happened before to other organizations. Often, standardized responses exist. Therefore, ITSM approaches often incorporate ITIL to minimize the new work needed to solve IT problems. ITSM also encompasses the process of change management.

Change management is the process of managing and implementing organizational change. Change management can occur throughout migrations, digital transformations or organizational mergers. DevOps teams use ITIL to guide them through these changes and measure KPIs and metrics related to the successful implementation of changes to IT systems. Ideally the change management process should be seamless. When it isn’t, problem management strategies can help smooth the transition.

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Incidents are errors or complications in IT service. Those that point to underlying or more complicated issues that require more comprehensive addressing are called problems.

IT operations and AIOps oversee and automate the management, delivery and support of IT services throughout an organization.

ITSM is how an organization ensures its IT services work the way users and the business need them to work.

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7 Steps for Effective Problem Management in IT


Information technology (IT) is a broad field that encompasses anything related to computer technology. That can include networking, hardware, software, the internet and the people that work with these things. Teams that work in IT are there to support these technologies and the people who use them. However, teams that work in IT management are not waiting around for systems to go down before they respond.

IT project management teams are tasked with preventing problems from occurring—and certainly from regularly occurring. This is called problem management, which has been detailed into best practices within the services management framework ITIL, or the information technology infrastructure library.

What Is Problem Management?

Problem management is the methodology related to responding to IT problems, especially those that are recurring, to make sure that they are resolved and don’t return.

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This involves the quick detection of an issue and then providing a viable solution, or at least some workaround to reduce the impact on the organization and stop the problem from reappearing.

ITIL & Problem Management

One of the aspects of problem management is pinpointing the issue in the IT infrastructure that is the root cause of the problem, which is where the ITIL comes in. ITIL was first started in 2000 and is presently the most popular IT service management framework for best practices. It is used as a protocol when aligning IT services with business needs.

ITIL follows a process that starts with identifying the problem, which has caused one or more incidents but is not known why at the time. This becomes defined as an error when it’s identified as a design flaw or malfunction. It becomes a known error as a root cause if found and a workaround is documented. The root cause is the underlying reason for the incident.

Types of Problem Management & Related Processes

Problem management can be broken down into two distinct groups. There is reactive problem management, which is reacting to a problem when it occurs. The other is proactive problem management. This is the act of identifying and solving an issue before it results in an incident or problem in the IT system.

Problem management falls under the larger umbrella of ITIL processes. ITIL service operation processes include problem management, incident management, request fulfillment, event management and access management.

Incident Management vs. Problem Management

“Incident” and “problem” might seem like similar words, but in the realm of problem management, they have different meanings. According to ITIL, an incident refers to “an unplanned interruption to a service, or the failure of a component of a service that hasn’t yet impacted service.”

A problem, on the other hand, is made up of more than one related incident, or those that have common issues. Therefore, a problem is more severe than an incident. It requires more follow-up. A problem is not an incident, but an incident can create a problem if it’s recurring.

Managing an incident means fixing it and restoring the system as fast as possible. A problem is resolved by discovering its root cause to make sure that new incidents don’t occur.

Therefore, incident management is getting the system back in order quickly. Problem management is working to find and resolve the underlying cause of the error that has resulted in several incidents.

Problem Management Team

There are roles and responsibilities in problem management to make sure that the process, which is outlined below, is carried out properly. There is a problem manager, who is the owner of the problem management process and is a liaison for all team members, manages the known error database, closes problems and coordinates review.

The problem-solving team can be an internal technical support team or a group of external suppliers or vendors. Sometimes, if the problem demands special attention, the problem manager will assemble a special team , with the expertise needed to solve the problem, dedicated to that specific problem and its resolution.

The Problem Management Process

Now that we know what problem management is, how does it work as a successful process? First of all, it’s not just about problem-solving. At the highest level, yes, problem management resolves problems. But it’s more about the entire life cycle of that problem.

The process for problem management then is a structured way to manage problems in IT projects after they are first reported by users or service desk technicians. The problem management process can be broken down into these seven steps.

1. Detection

To resolve a problem, first, you have to identify it. This can be done in several ways. One is that there’s a problem that is reported or one that has undergone an ongoing analysis. There are also event management tools that can automatically detect a problem, or you might get a notification from a supplier.

A problem can be defined as when the cause of the problem report remains uncertain. For example, an incident can occur and get resolved but then reoccur. The underlying cause for this recurrence is unclear. Sometimes a problem is a known problem, one that has occurred before and is part of an existing record.

In the last example, when a problem is already recorded once and has happened again, this historical data is known because it had been logged. This is a crucial step in any problem management life cycle process. The log must have all pertinent details, such as the date and time of the problem, any user information, equipment details and a description.

Once the problem has been logged, then it must be categorized to better assign and monitor, as well as given a priority. This helps to determine how important the problem is and when it should be addressed by the team.

3. Diagnosis

Once the problem is identified and logged, then comes the search for its root cause. This can be done by investigating the known error database to find other problems that match the one you’re trying to diagnose and see if there are any recorded resolutions.

4. Workaround

If it’s possible to temporarily fix the problem with a workaround, then this might be the best and fastest course of action. It is not a permanent change and should not be used in exchange for resolving the issue, but it can set the technological ship back on course and reduce downtime and disruption until a permanent change resolution is available. Just be careful not to accrue too much technical debt .

5. Known Error Record

After you’ve identified, logged and diagnosed the problem, it’s important to collect that information in a known error record. This is where you can go back and look up problems when others arise in your IT and see if it’s one you’ve already handled.

This makes resolving the problems faster and easier, resulting in less downtime and disruption.

6. Resolution

When you have a resolution for the problem, implement it with standard change procedure and test the resolution to make sure it in fact is working. Sometimes this process is carried out through a request for change document, which then must be approved before being implemented.

Once resolved and tested, the problem can be closed. The final bit of paperwork is usually completed by the service desk technician, who makes sure that the details are accurate for future reference.

Why Is Problem Management Important?

Successful problem management results in less downtime and fewer disruptions in the business. It also improves service availability and quality. Problem management helps companies to reduce the time they spend having to resolve problems and also the number of problems that occur.

This all leads to an increase in productivity and reduces costs. The final step in the problem management journey is that it leads to improved customer satisfaction.

Technology is changing all the time, faster and faster with each passing quarter, and problem management is one way to mitigate the chaos often associated with these changes. Problem management keeps services running and increases quality.

ProjectManager Helps Problem Management

Problems need solutions and solutions come from people with the right tools. ProjectManager is an online project management software that organizes projects, including when those projects are dealing with IT problems.

Log Problems & Build Projects

When a problem has been identified by the help desk or a user, it becomes more than just an IT problem. It is now a project to resolve it. One way ProjectManager helps is by structuring its resolution in a kanban board .

By logging the identified problem in ProjectManager you can now archive the work to resolve it. This now becomes a piece of historical data to reference if and when the problem shows up again. Once the problem has been diagnosed, it can go on a kanban card and move through the kanban as it is being worked on and completed. Adding tabs can list them as bugs, so they’re easy to find. You can even prioritize them.

ProjectManager's list view with a task overlay

Track Progress

Managers are going to want to progress reports. Kanban boards are transparent, so they can see the work getting done, but for more details project reports are fast and thorough. The real-time dashboard can even give managers a high-level overview.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Next time your IT department is struggling with resolving a problem, give them ProjectManager. It has the tools IT professionals want.

ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that can be used as a problem management tool. Our software can collect and categorize your problem as a project, so the problem management process can be controlled. You can track the resolution of your problem in real time, assign team members to resolve the problem and give them a platform to collaborate and work more effectively. Solve your problems by trying ProjectManager free with this 30-day trial offer.

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  • The Art of Effective Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Guide

Author's Avatar

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

  • Last Updated: February 6, 2023
  • Learn Lean Sigma
  • Problem Solving

Whether we realise it or not, problem solving skills are an important part of our daily lives. From resolving a minor annoyance at home to tackling complex business challenges at work, our ability to solve problems has a significant impact on our success and happiness. However, not everyone is naturally gifted at problem-solving, and even those who are can always improve their skills. In this blog post, we will go over the art of effective problem-solving step by step.

You will learn how to define a problem, gather information, assess alternatives, and implement a solution, all while honing your critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Whether you’re a seasoned problem solver or just getting started, this guide will arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to face any challenge with confidence. So let’s get started!

Problem Solving Methodologies

Individuals and organisations can use a variety of problem-solving methodologies to address complex challenges. 8D and A3 problem solving techniques are two popular methodologies in the Lean Six Sigma framework.

Methodology of 8D (Eight Discipline) Problem Solving:

The 8D problem solving methodology is a systematic, team-based approach to problem solving. It is a method that guides a team through eight distinct steps to solve a problem in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

The 8D process consists of the following steps:

8D Problem Solving2 - Learnleansigma

  • Form a team: Assemble a group of people who have the necessary expertise to work on the problem.
  • Define the issue: Clearly identify and define the problem, including the root cause and the customer impact.
  • Create a temporary containment plan: Put in place a plan to lessen the impact of the problem until a permanent solution can be found.
  • Identify the root cause: To identify the underlying causes of the problem, use root cause analysis techniques such as Fishbone diagrams and Pareto charts.
  • Create and test long-term corrective actions: Create and test a long-term solution to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  • Implement and validate the permanent solution: Implement and validate the permanent solution’s effectiveness.
  • Prevent recurrence: Put in place measures to keep the problem from recurring.
  • Recognize and reward the team: Recognize and reward the team for its efforts.

Download the 8D Problem Solving Template

A3 Problem Solving Method:

The A3 problem solving technique is a visual, team-based problem-solving approach that is frequently used in Lean Six Sigma projects. The A3 report is a one-page document that clearly and concisely outlines the problem, root cause analysis, and proposed solution.

The A3 problem-solving procedure consists of the following steps:

  • Determine the issue: Define the issue clearly, including its impact on the customer.
  • Perform root cause analysis: Identify the underlying causes of the problem using root cause analysis techniques.
  • Create and implement a solution: Create and implement a solution that addresses the problem’s root cause.
  • Monitor and improve the solution: Keep an eye on the solution’s effectiveness and make any necessary changes.

Subsequently, in the Lean Six Sigma framework, the 8D and A3 problem solving methodologies are two popular approaches to problem solving. Both methodologies provide a structured, team-based problem-solving approach that guides individuals through a comprehensive and systematic process of identifying, analysing, and resolving problems in an effective and efficient manner.

Step 1 – Define the Problem

The definition of the problem is the first step in effective problem solving. This may appear to be a simple task, but it is actually quite difficult. This is because problems are frequently complex and multi-layered, making it easy to confuse symptoms with the underlying cause. To avoid this pitfall, it is critical to thoroughly understand the problem.

To begin, ask yourself some clarifying questions:

  • What exactly is the issue?
  • What are the problem’s symptoms or consequences?
  • Who or what is impacted by the issue?
  • When and where does the issue arise?

Answering these questions will assist you in determining the scope of the problem. However, simply describing the problem is not always sufficient; you must also identify the root cause. The root cause is the underlying cause of the problem and is usually the key to resolving it permanently.

Try asking “why” questions to find the root cause:

  • What causes the problem?
  • Why does it continue?
  • Why does it have the effects that it does?

By repeatedly asking “ why ,” you’ll eventually get to the bottom of the problem. This is an important step in the problem-solving process because it ensures that you’re dealing with the root cause rather than just the symptoms.

Once you have a firm grasp on the issue, it is time to divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. This makes tackling the problem easier and reduces the risk of becoming overwhelmed. For example, if you’re attempting to solve a complex business problem, you might divide it into smaller components like market research, product development, and sales strategies.

To summarise step 1, defining the problem is an important first step in effective problem-solving. You will be able to identify the root cause and break it down into manageable parts if you take the time to thoroughly understand the problem. This will prepare you for the next step in the problem-solving process, which is gathering information and brainstorming ideas.

Step 2 – Gather Information and Brainstorm Ideas

Brainstorming - Learnleansigma

Gathering information and brainstorming ideas is the next step in effective problem solving. This entails researching the problem and relevant information, collaborating with others, and coming up with a variety of potential solutions. This increases your chances of finding the best solution to the problem.

Begin by researching the problem and relevant information. This could include reading articles, conducting surveys, or consulting with experts. The goal is to collect as much information as possible in order to better understand the problem and possible solutions.

Next, work with others to gather a variety of perspectives. Brainstorming with others can be an excellent way to come up with new and creative ideas. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas when working in a group, and make an effort to actively listen to what others have to say. Be open to new and unconventional ideas and resist the urge to dismiss them too quickly.

Finally, use brainstorming to generate a wide range of potential solutions. This is the place where you can let your imagination run wild. At this stage, don’t worry about the feasibility or practicality of the solutions; instead, focus on generating as many ideas as possible. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous or unusual it may appear. This can be done individually or in groups.

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the next step in the problem-solving process, which we’ll go over in greater detail in the following section.

Step 3 – Evaluate Options and Choose the Best Solution

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the third step in effective problem solving, and it entails weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, considering their feasibility and practicability, and selecting the solution that is most likely to solve the problem effectively.

To begin, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. This will assist you in determining the potential outcomes of each solution and deciding which is the best option. For example, a quick and easy solution may not be the most effective in the long run, whereas a more complex and time-consuming solution may be more effective in solving the problem in the long run.

Consider each solution’s feasibility and practicability. Consider the following:

  • Can the solution be implemented within the available resources, time, and budget?
  • What are the possible barriers to implementing the solution?
  • Is the solution feasible in today’s political, economic, and social environment?

You’ll be able to tell which solutions are likely to succeed and which aren’t by assessing their feasibility and practicability.

Finally, choose the solution that is most likely to effectively solve the problem. This solution should be based on the criteria you’ve established, such as the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and your overall goals.

It is critical to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to problems. What is effective for one person or situation may not be effective for another. This is why it is critical to consider a wide range of solutions and evaluate each one based on its ability to effectively solve the problem.

Step 4 – Implement and Monitor the Solution

Communication the missing peice from Lean Six Sigma - Learnleansigma

When you’ve decided on the best solution, it’s time to put it into action. The fourth and final step in effective problem solving is to put the solution into action, monitor its progress, and make any necessary adjustments.

To begin, implement the solution. This may entail delegating tasks, developing a strategy, and allocating resources. Ascertain that everyone involved understands their role and responsibilities in the solution’s implementation.

Next, keep an eye on the solution’s progress. This may entail scheduling regular check-ins, tracking metrics, and soliciting feedback from others. You will be able to identify any potential roadblocks and make any necessary adjustments in a timely manner if you monitor the progress of the solution.

Finally, make any necessary modifications to the solution. This could entail changing the solution, altering the plan of action, or delegating different tasks. Be willing to make changes if they will improve the solution or help it solve the problem more effectively.

It’s important to remember that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to start from scratch. This is especially true if the initial solution does not effectively solve the problem. In these situations, it’s critical to be adaptable and flexible and to keep trying new solutions until you find the one that works best.

To summarise, effective problem solving is a critical skill that can assist individuals and organisations in overcoming challenges and achieving their objectives. Effective problem solving consists of four key steps: defining the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating alternatives and selecting the best solution, and implementing the solution.

You can increase your chances of success in problem solving by following these steps and considering factors such as the pros and cons of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and making any necessary adjustments. Furthermore, keep in mind that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to go back to the beginning and restart. Maintain your adaptability and try new solutions until you find the one that works best for you.

  • Novick, L.R. and Bassok, M., 2005.  Problem Solving . Cambridge University Press.

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Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast , Simon London speaks with Charles Conn, CEO of venture-capital firm Oxford Sciences Innovation, and McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin about the complexities of different problem-solving strategies.

Podcast transcript

Simon London: Hello, and welcome to this episode of the McKinsey Podcast , with me, Simon London. What’s the number-one skill you need to succeed professionally? Salesmanship, perhaps? Or a facility with statistics? Or maybe the ability to communicate crisply and clearly? Many would argue that at the very top of the list comes problem solving: that is, the ability to think through and come up with an optimal course of action to address any complex challenge—in business, in public policy, or indeed in life.

Looked at this way, it’s no surprise that McKinsey takes problem solving very seriously, testing for it during the recruiting process and then honing it, in McKinsey consultants, through immersion in a structured seven-step method. To discuss the art of problem solving, I sat down in California with McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin and also with Charles Conn. Charles is a former McKinsey partner, entrepreneur, executive, and coauthor of the book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything [John Wiley & Sons, 2018].

Charles and Hugo, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being here.

Hugo Sarrazin: Our pleasure.

Charles Conn: It’s terrific to be here.

Simon London: Problem solving is a really interesting piece of terminology. It could mean so many different things. I have a son who’s a teenage climber. They talk about solving problems. Climbing is problem solving. Charles, when you talk about problem solving, what are you talking about?

Charles Conn: For me, problem solving is the answer to the question “What should I do?” It’s interesting when there’s uncertainty and complexity, and when it’s meaningful because there are consequences. Your son’s climbing is a perfect example. There are consequences, and it’s complicated, and there’s uncertainty—can he make that grab? I think we can apply that same frame almost at any level. You can think about questions like “What town would I like to live in?” or “Should I put solar panels on my roof?”

You might think that’s a funny thing to apply problem solving to, but in my mind it’s not fundamentally different from business problem solving, which answers the question “What should my strategy be?” Or problem solving at the policy level: “How do we combat climate change?” “Should I support the local school bond?” I think these are all part and parcel of the same type of question, “What should I do?”

I’m a big fan of structured problem solving. By following steps, we can more clearly understand what problem it is we’re solving, what are the components of the problem that we’re solving, which components are the most important ones for us to pay attention to, which analytic techniques we should apply to those, and how we can synthesize what we’ve learned back into a compelling story. That’s all it is, at its heart.

I think sometimes when people think about seven steps, they assume that there’s a rigidity to this. That’s not it at all. It’s actually to give you the scope for creativity, which often doesn’t exist when your problem solving is muddled.

Simon London: You were just talking about the seven-step process. That’s what’s written down in the book, but it’s a very McKinsey process as well. Without getting too deep into the weeds, let’s go through the steps, one by one. You were just talking about problem definition as being a particularly important thing to get right first. That’s the first step. Hugo, tell us about that.

Hugo Sarrazin: It is surprising how often people jump past this step and make a bunch of assumptions. The most powerful thing is to step back and ask the basic questions—“What are we trying to solve? What are the constraints that exist? What are the dependencies?” Let’s make those explicit and really push the thinking and defining. At McKinsey, we spend an enormous amount of time in writing that little statement, and the statement, if you’re a logic purist, is great. You debate. “Is it an ‘or’? Is it an ‘and’? What’s the action verb?” Because all these specific words help you get to the heart of what matters.

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Simon London: So this is a concise problem statement.

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah. It’s not like “Can we grow in Japan?” That’s interesting, but it is “What, specifically, are we trying to uncover in the growth of a product in Japan? Or a segment in Japan? Or a channel in Japan?” When you spend an enormous amount of time, in the first meeting of the different stakeholders, debating this and having different people put forward what they think the problem definition is, you realize that people have completely different views of why they’re here. That, to me, is the most important step.

Charles Conn: I would agree with that. For me, the problem context is critical. When we understand “What are the forces acting upon your decision maker? How quickly is the answer needed? With what precision is the answer needed? Are there areas that are off limits or areas where we would particularly like to find our solution? Is the decision maker open to exploring other areas?” then you not only become more efficient, and move toward what we call the critical path in problem solving, but you also make it so much more likely that you’re not going to waste your time or your decision maker’s time.

How often do especially bright young people run off with half of the idea about what the problem is and start collecting data and start building models—only to discover that they’ve really gone off half-cocked.

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah.

Charles Conn: And in the wrong direction.

Simon London: OK. So step one—and there is a real art and a structure to it—is define the problem. Step two, Charles?

Charles Conn: My favorite step is step two, which is to use logic trees to disaggregate the problem. Every problem we’re solving has some complexity and some uncertainty in it. The only way that we can really get our team working on the problem is to take the problem apart into logical pieces.

What we find, of course, is that the way to disaggregate the problem often gives you an insight into the answer to the problem quite quickly. I love to do two or three different cuts at it, each one giving a bit of a different insight into what might be going wrong. By doing sensible disaggregations, using logic trees, we can figure out which parts of the problem we should be looking at, and we can assign those different parts to team members.

Simon London: What’s a good example of a logic tree on a sort of ratable problem?

Charles Conn: Maybe the easiest one is the classic profit tree. Almost in every business that I would take a look at, I would start with a profit or return-on-assets tree. In its simplest form, you have the components of revenue, which are price and quantity, and the components of cost, which are cost and quantity. Each of those can be broken out. Cost can be broken into variable cost and fixed cost. The components of price can be broken into what your pricing scheme is. That simple tree often provides insight into what’s going on in a business or what the difference is between that business and the competitors.

If we add the leg, which is “What’s the asset base or investment element?”—so profit divided by assets—then we can ask the question “Is the business using its investments sensibly?” whether that’s in stores or in manufacturing or in transportation assets. I hope we can see just how simple this is, even though we’re describing it in words.

When I went to work with Gordon Moore at the Moore Foundation, the problem that he asked us to look at was “How can we save Pacific salmon?” Now, that sounds like an impossible question, but it was amenable to precisely the same type of disaggregation and allowed us to organize what became a 15-year effort to improve the likelihood of good outcomes for Pacific salmon.

Simon London: Now, is there a danger that your logic tree can be impossibly large? This, I think, brings us onto the third step in the process, which is that you have to prioritize.

Charles Conn: Absolutely. The third step, which we also emphasize, along with good problem definition, is rigorous prioritization—we ask the questions “How important is this lever or this branch of the tree in the overall outcome that we seek to achieve? How much can I move that lever?” Obviously, we try and focus our efforts on ones that have a big impact on the problem and the ones that we have the ability to change. With salmon, ocean conditions turned out to be a big lever, but not one that we could adjust. We focused our attention on fish habitats and fish-harvesting practices, which were big levers that we could affect.

People spend a lot of time arguing about branches that are either not important or that none of us can change. We see it in the public square. When we deal with questions at the policy level—“Should you support the death penalty?” “How do we affect climate change?” “How can we uncover the causes and address homelessness?”—it’s even more important that we’re focusing on levers that are big and movable.

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Simon London: Let’s move swiftly on to step four. You’ve defined your problem, you disaggregate it, you prioritize where you want to analyze—what you want to really look at hard. Then you got to the work plan. Now, what does that mean in practice?

Hugo Sarrazin: Depending on what you’ve prioritized, there are many things you could do. It could be breaking the work among the team members so that people have a clear piece of the work to do. It could be defining the specific analyses that need to get done and executed, and being clear on time lines. There’s always a level-one answer, there’s a level-two answer, there’s a level-three answer. Without being too flippant, I can solve any problem during a good dinner with wine. It won’t have a whole lot of backing.

Simon London: Not going to have a lot of depth to it.

Hugo Sarrazin: No, but it may be useful as a starting point. If the stakes are not that high, that could be OK. If it’s really high stakes, you may need level three and have the whole model validated in three different ways. You need to find a work plan that reflects the level of precision, the time frame you have, and the stakeholders you need to bring along in the exercise.

Charles Conn: I love the way you’ve described that, because, again, some people think of problem solving as a linear thing, but of course what’s critical is that it’s iterative. As you say, you can solve the problem in one day or even one hour.

Charles Conn: We encourage our teams everywhere to do that. We call it the one-day answer or the one-hour answer. In work planning, we’re always iterating. Every time you see a 50-page work plan that stretches out to three months, you know it’s wrong. It will be outmoded very quickly by that learning process that you described. Iterative problem solving is a critical part of this. Sometimes, people think work planning sounds dull, but it isn’t. It’s how we know what’s expected of us and when we need to deliver it and how we’re progressing toward the answer. It’s also the place where we can deal with biases. Bias is a feature of every human decision-making process. If we design our team interactions intelligently, we can avoid the worst sort of biases.

Simon London: Here we’re talking about cognitive biases primarily, right? It’s not that I’m biased against you because of your accent or something. These are the cognitive biases that behavioral sciences have shown we all carry around, things like anchoring, overoptimism—these kinds of things.

Both: Yeah.

Charles Conn: Availability bias is the one that I’m always alert to. You think you’ve seen the problem before, and therefore what’s available is your previous conception of it—and we have to be most careful about that. In any human setting, we also have to be careful about biases that are based on hierarchies, sometimes called sunflower bias. I’m sure, Hugo, with your teams, you make sure that the youngest team members speak first. Not the oldest team members, because it’s easy for people to look at who’s senior and alter their own creative approaches.

Hugo Sarrazin: It’s helpful, at that moment—if someone is asserting a point of view—to ask the question “This was true in what context?” You’re trying to apply something that worked in one context to a different one. That can be deadly if the context has changed, and that’s why organizations struggle to change. You promote all these people because they did something that worked well in the past, and then there’s a disruption in the industry, and they keep doing what got them promoted even though the context has changed.

Simon London: Right. Right.

Hugo Sarrazin: So it’s the same thing in problem solving.

Charles Conn: And it’s why diversity in our teams is so important. It’s one of the best things about the world that we’re in now. We’re likely to have people from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and national backgrounds, each of whom sees problems from a slightly different perspective. It is therefore much more likely that the team will uncover a truly creative and clever approach to problem solving.

Simon London: Let’s move on to step five. You’ve done your work plan. Now you’ve actually got to do the analysis. The thing that strikes me here is that the range of tools that we have at our disposal now, of course, is just huge, particularly with advances in computation, advanced analytics. There’s so many things that you can apply here. Just talk about the analysis stage. How do you pick the right tools?

Charles Conn: For me, the most important thing is that we start with simple heuristics and explanatory statistics before we go off and use the big-gun tools. We need to understand the shape and scope of our problem before we start applying these massive and complex analytical approaches.

Simon London: Would you agree with that?

Hugo Sarrazin: I agree. I think there are so many wonderful heuristics. You need to start there before you go deep into the modeling exercise. There’s an interesting dynamic that’s happening, though. In some cases, for some types of problems, it is even better to set yourself up to maximize your learning. Your problem-solving methodology is test and learn, test and learn, test and learn, and iterate. That is a heuristic in itself, the A/B testing that is used in many parts of the world. So that’s a problem-solving methodology. It’s nothing different. It just uses technology and feedback loops in a fast way. The other one is exploratory data analysis. When you’re dealing with a large-scale problem, and there’s so much data, I can get to the heuristics that Charles was talking about through very clever visualization of data.

You test with your data. You need to set up an environment to do so, but don’t get caught up in neural-network modeling immediately. You’re testing, you’re checking—“Is the data right? Is it sound? Does it make sense?”—before you launch too far.

Simon London: You do hear these ideas—that if you have a big enough data set and enough algorithms, they’re going to find things that you just wouldn’t have spotted, find solutions that maybe you wouldn’t have thought of. Does machine learning sort of revolutionize the problem-solving process? Or are these actually just other tools in the toolbox for structured problem solving?

Charles Conn: It can be revolutionary. There are some areas in which the pattern recognition of large data sets and good algorithms can help us see things that we otherwise couldn’t see. But I do think it’s terribly important we don’t think that this particular technique is a substitute for superb problem solving, starting with good problem definition. Many people use machine learning without understanding algorithms that themselves can have biases built into them. Just as 20 years ago, when we were doing statistical analysis, we knew that we needed good model definition, we still need a good understanding of our algorithms and really good problem definition before we launch off into big data sets and unknown algorithms.

Simon London: Step six. You’ve done your analysis.

Charles Conn: I take six and seven together, and this is the place where young problem solvers often make a mistake. They’ve got their analysis, and they assume that’s the answer, and of course it isn’t the answer. The ability to synthesize the pieces that came out of the analysis and begin to weave those into a story that helps people answer the question “What should I do?” This is back to where we started. If we can’t synthesize, and we can’t tell a story, then our decision maker can’t find the answer to “What should I do?”

Simon London: But, again, these final steps are about motivating people to action, right?

Charles Conn: Yeah.

Simon London: I am slightly torn about the nomenclature of problem solving because it’s on paper, right? Until you motivate people to action, you actually haven’t solved anything.

Charles Conn: I love this question because I think decision-making theory, without a bias to action, is a waste of time. Everything in how I approach this is to help people take action that makes the world better.

Simon London: Hence, these are absolutely critical steps. If you don’t do this well, you’ve just got a bunch of analysis.

Charles Conn: We end up in exactly the same place where we started, which is people speaking across each other, past each other in the public square, rather than actually working together, shoulder to shoulder, to crack these important problems.

Simon London: In the real world, we have a lot of uncertainty—arguably, increasing uncertainty. How do good problem solvers deal with that?

Hugo Sarrazin: At every step of the process. In the problem definition, when you’re defining the context, you need to understand those sources of uncertainty and whether they’re important or not important. It becomes important in the definition of the tree.

You need to think carefully about the branches of the tree that are more certain and less certain as you define them. They don’t have equal weight just because they’ve got equal space on the page. Then, when you’re prioritizing, your prioritization approach may put more emphasis on things that have low probability but huge impact—or, vice versa, may put a lot of priority on things that are very likely and, hopefully, have a reasonable impact. You can introduce that along the way. When you come back to the synthesis, you just need to be nuanced about what you’re understanding, the likelihood.

Often, people lack humility in the way they make their recommendations: “This is the answer.” They’re very precise, and I think we would all be well-served to say, “This is a likely answer under the following sets of conditions” and then make the level of uncertainty clearer, if that is appropriate. It doesn’t mean you’re always in the gray zone; it doesn’t mean you don’t have a point of view. It just means that you can be explicit about the certainty of your answer when you make that recommendation.

Simon London: So it sounds like there is an underlying principle: “Acknowledge and embrace the uncertainty. Don’t pretend that it isn’t there. Be very clear about what the uncertainties are up front, and then build that into every step of the process.”

Hugo Sarrazin: Every step of the process.

Simon London: Yeah. We have just walked through a particular structured methodology for problem solving. But, of course, this is not the only structured methodology for problem solving. One that is also very well-known is design thinking, which comes at things very differently. So, Hugo, I know you have worked with a lot of designers. Just give us a very quick summary. Design thinking—what is it, and how does it relate?

Hugo Sarrazin: It starts with an incredible amount of empathy for the user and uses that to define the problem. It does pause and go out in the wild and spend an enormous amount of time seeing how people interact with objects, seeing the experience they’re getting, seeing the pain points or joy—and uses that to infer and define the problem.

Simon London: Problem definition, but out in the world.

Hugo Sarrazin: With an enormous amount of empathy. There’s a huge emphasis on empathy. Traditional, more classic problem solving is you define the problem based on an understanding of the situation. This one almost presupposes that we don’t know the problem until we go see it. The second thing is you need to come up with multiple scenarios or answers or ideas or concepts, and there’s a lot of divergent thinking initially. That’s slightly different, versus the prioritization, but not for long. Eventually, you need to kind of say, “OK, I’m going to converge again.” Then you go and you bring things back to the customer and get feedback and iterate. Then you rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. There’s a lot of tactile building, along the way, of prototypes and things like that. It’s very iterative.

Simon London: So, Charles, are these complements or are these alternatives?

Charles Conn: I think they’re entirely complementary, and I think Hugo’s description is perfect. When we do problem definition well in classic problem solving, we are demonstrating the kind of empathy, at the very beginning of our problem, that design thinking asks us to approach. When we ideate—and that’s very similar to the disaggregation, prioritization, and work-planning steps—we do precisely the same thing, and often we use contrasting teams, so that we do have divergent thinking. The best teams allow divergent thinking to bump them off whatever their initial biases in problem solving are. For me, design thinking gives us a constant reminder of creativity, empathy, and the tactile nature of problem solving, but it’s absolutely complementary, not alternative.

Simon London: I think, in a world of cross-functional teams, an interesting question is do people with design-thinking backgrounds really work well together with classical problem solvers? How do you make that chemistry happen?

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah, it is not easy when people have spent an enormous amount of time seeped in design thinking or user-centric design, whichever word you want to use. If the person who’s applying classic problem-solving methodology is very rigid and mechanical in the way they’re doing it, there could be an enormous amount of tension. If there’s not clarity in the role and not clarity in the process, I think having the two together can be, sometimes, problematic.

The second thing that happens often is that the artifacts the two methodologies try to gravitate toward can be different. Classic problem solving often gravitates toward a model; design thinking migrates toward a prototype. Rather than writing a big deck with all my supporting evidence, they’ll bring an example, a thing, and that feels different. Then you spend your time differently to achieve those two end products, so that’s another source of friction.

Now, I still think it can be an incredibly powerful thing to have the two—if there are the right people with the right mind-set, if there is a team that is explicit about the roles, if we’re clear about the kind of outcomes we are attempting to bring forward. There’s an enormous amount of collaborativeness and respect.

Simon London: But they have to respect each other’s methodology and be prepared to flex, maybe, a little bit, in how this process is going to work.

Hugo Sarrazin: Absolutely.

Simon London: The other area where, it strikes me, there could be a little bit of a different sort of friction is this whole concept of the day-one answer, which is what we were just talking about in classical problem solving. Now, you know that this is probably not going to be your final answer, but that’s how you begin to structure the problem. Whereas I would imagine your design thinkers—no, they’re going off to do their ethnographic research and get out into the field, potentially for a long time, before they come back with at least an initial hypothesis.

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Hugo Sarrazin: That is a great callout, and that’s another difference. Designers typically will like to soak into the situation and avoid converging too quickly. There’s optionality and exploring different options. There’s a strong belief that keeps the solution space wide enough that you can come up with more radical ideas. If there’s a large design team or many designers on the team, and you come on Friday and say, “What’s our week-one answer?” they’re going to struggle. They’re not going to be comfortable, naturally, to give that answer. It doesn’t mean they don’t have an answer; it’s just not where they are in their thinking process.

Simon London: I think we are, sadly, out of time for today. But Charles and Hugo, thank you so much.

Charles Conn: It was a pleasure to be here, Simon.

Hugo Sarrazin: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Simon London: And thanks, as always, to you, our listeners, for tuning into this episode of the McKinsey Podcast . If you want to learn more about problem solving, you can find the book, Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything , online or order it through your local bookstore. To learn more about McKinsey, you can of course find us at

Charles Conn is CEO of Oxford Sciences Innovation and an alumnus of McKinsey’s Sydney office. Hugo Sarrazin is a senior partner in the Silicon Valley office, where Simon London, a member of McKinsey Publishing, is also based.

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Effective problem solving is all about using the right process and following a plan tailored to the issue at hand. Recognizing your team or organization has an issue isn’t enough to come up with effective problem solving strategies. 

To truly understand a problem and develop appropriate solutions, you will want to follow a solid process, follow the necessary problem solving steps, and bring all of your problem solving skills to the table.  

We’ll first guide you through the seven step problem solving process you and your team can use to effectively solve complex business challenges. We’ll also look at what problem solving strategies you can employ with your team when looking for a way to approach the process. We’ll then discuss the problem solving skills you need to be more effective at solving problems, complete with an activity from the SessionLab library you can use to develop that skill in your team.

Let’s get to it! 

What is a problem solving process?

  • What are the problem solving steps I need to follow?

Problem solving strategies

What skills do i need to be an effective problem solver, how can i improve my problem solving skills.

Solving problems is like baking a cake. You can go straight into the kitchen without a recipe or the right ingredients and do your best, but the end result is unlikely to be very tasty!

Using a process to bake a cake allows you to use the best ingredients without waste, collect the right tools, account for allergies, decide whether it is a birthday or wedding cake, and then bake efficiently and on time. The result is a better cake that is fit for purpose, tastes better and has created less mess in the kitchen. Also, it should have chocolate sprinkles. Having a step by step process to solve organizational problems allows you to go through each stage methodically and ensure you are trying to solve the right problems and select the most appropriate, effective solutions.

What are the problem solving steps I need to follow? 

All problem solving processes go through a number of steps in order to move from identifying a problem to resolving it.

Depending on your problem solving model and who you ask, there can be anything between four and nine problem solving steps you should follow in order to find the right solution. Whatever framework you and your group use, there are some key items that should be addressed in order to have an effective process.

We’ve looked at problem solving processes from sources such as the American Society for Quality and their four step approach , and Mediate ‘s six step process. By reflecting on those and our own problem solving processes, we’ve come up with a sequence of seven problem solving steps we feel best covers everything you need in order to effectively solve problems.

seven step problem solving process

1. Problem identification 

The first stage of any problem solving process is to identify the problem or problems you might want to solve. Effective problem solving strategies always begin by allowing a group scope to articulate what they believe the problem to be and then coming to some consensus over which problem they approach first. Problem solving activities used at this stage often have a focus on creating frank, open discussion so that potential problems can be brought to the surface.

2. Problem analysis 

Though this step is not a million miles from problem identification, problem analysis deserves to be considered separately. It can often be an overlooked part of the process and is instrumental when it comes to developing effective solutions.

The process of problem analysis means ensuring that the problem you are seeking to solve is the right problem . As part of this stage, you may look deeper and try to find the root cause of a specific problem at a team or organizational level.

Remember that problem solving strategies should not only be focused on putting out fires in the short term but developing long term solutions that deal with the root cause of organizational challenges. 

Whatever your approach, analyzing a problem is crucial in being able to select an appropriate solution and the problem solving skills deployed in this stage are beneficial for the rest of the process and ensuring the solutions you create are fit for purpose.

3. Solution generation

Once your group has nailed down the particulars of the problem you wish to solve, you want to encourage a free flow of ideas connecting to solving that problem. This can take the form of problem solving games that encourage creative thinking or problem solving activities designed to produce working prototypes of possible solutions. 

The key to ensuring the success of this stage of the problem solving process is to encourage quick, creative thinking and create an open space where all ideas are considered. The best solutions can come from unlikely places and by using problem solving techniques that celebrate invention, you might come up with solution gold. 

4. Solution development

No solution is likely to be perfect right out of the gate. It’s important to discuss and develop the solutions your group has come up with over the course of following the previous problem solving steps in order to arrive at the best possible solution. Problem solving games used in this stage involve lots of critical thinking, measuring potential effort and impact, and looking at possible solutions analytically. 

During this stage, you will often ask your team to iterate and improve upon your frontrunning solutions and develop them further. Remember that problem solving strategies always benefit from a multitude of voices and opinions, and not to let ego get involved when it comes to choosing which solutions to develop and take further.

Finding the best solution is the goal of all problem solving workshops and here is the place to ensure that your solution is well thought out, sufficiently robust and fit for purpose. 

5. Decision making 

Nearly there! Once your group has reached consensus and selected a solution that applies to the problem at hand you have some decisions to make. You will want to work on allocating ownership of the project, figure out who will do what, how the success of the solution will be measured and decide the next course of action.

The decision making stage is a part of the problem solving process that can get missed or taken as for granted. Fail to properly allocate roles and plan out how a solution will actually be implemented and it less likely to be successful in solving the problem.

Have clear accountabilities, actions, timeframes, and follow-ups. Make these decisions and set clear next-steps in the problem solving workshop so that everyone is aligned and you can move forward effectively as a group. 

Ensuring that you plan for the roll-out of a solution is one of the most important problem solving steps. Without adequate planning or oversight, it can prove impossible to measure success or iterate further if the problem was not solved. 

6. Solution implementation 

This is what we were waiting for! All problem solving strategies have the end goal of implementing a solution and solving a problem in mind. 

Remember that in order for any solution to be successful, you need to help your group through all of the previous problem solving steps thoughtfully. Only then can you ensure that you are solving the right problem but also that you have developed the correct solution and can then successfully implement and measure the impact of that solution.

Project management and communication skills are key here – your solution may need to adjust when out in the wild or you might discover new challenges along the way.

7. Solution evaluation 

So you and your team developed a great solution to a problem and have a gut feeling its been solved. Work done, right? Wrong. All problem solving strategies benefit from evaluation, consideration, and feedback. You might find that the solution does not work for everyone, might create new problems, or is potentially so successful that you will want to roll it out to larger teams or as part of other initiatives. 

None of that is possible without taking the time to evaluate the success of the solution you developed in your problem solving model and adjust if necessary.

Remember that the problem solving process is often iterative and it can be common to not solve complex issues on the first try. Even when this is the case, you and your team will have generated learning that will be important for future problem solving workshops or in other parts of the organization. 

It’s worth underlining how important record keeping is throughout the problem solving process. If a solution didn’t work, you need to have the data and records to see why that was the case. If you go back to the drawing board, notes from the previous workshop can help save time. Data and insight is invaluable at every stage of the problem solving process and this one is no different.

Problem solving workshops made easy

problem solving techniques in management information system

Problem solving strategies are methods of approaching and facilitating the process of problem-solving with a set of techniques , actions, and processes. Different strategies are more effective if you are trying to solve broad problems such as achieving higher growth versus more focused problems like, how do we improve our customer onboarding process?

Broadly, the problem solving steps outlined above should be included in any problem solving strategy though choosing where to focus your time and what approaches should be taken is where they begin to differ. You might find that some strategies ask for the problem identification to be done prior to the session or that everything happens in the course of a one day workshop.

The key similarity is that all good problem solving strategies are structured and designed. Four hours of open discussion is never going to be as productive as a four-hour workshop designed to lead a group through a problem solving process.

Good problem solving strategies are tailored to the team, organization and problem you will be attempting to solve. Here are some example problem solving strategies you can learn from or use to get started.

Use a workshop to lead a team through a group process

Often, the first step to solving problems or organizational challenges is bringing a group together effectively. Most teams have the tools, knowledge, and expertise necessary to solve their challenges – they just need some guidance in how to use leverage those skills and a structure and format that allows people to focus their energies.

Facilitated workshops are one of the most effective ways of solving problems of any scale. By designing and planning your workshop carefully, you can tailor the approach and scope to best fit the needs of your team and organization. 

Problem solving workshop

  • Creating a bespoke, tailored process
  • Tackling problems of any size
  • Building in-house workshop ability and encouraging their use

Workshops are an effective strategy for solving problems. By using tried and test facilitation techniques and methods, you can design and deliver a workshop that is perfectly suited to the unique variables of your organization. You may only have the capacity for a half-day workshop and so need a problem solving process to match. 

By using our session planner tool and importing methods from our library of 700+ facilitation techniques, you can create the right problem solving workshop for your team. It might be that you want to encourage creative thinking or look at things from a new angle to unblock your groups approach to problem solving. By tailoring your workshop design to the purpose, you can help ensure great results.

One of the main benefits of a workshop is the structured approach to problem solving. Not only does this mean that the workshop itself will be successful, but many of the methods and techniques will help your team improve their working processes outside of the workshop. 

We believe that workshops are one of the best tools you can use to improve the way your team works together. Start with a problem solving workshop and then see what team building, culture or design workshops can do for your organization!

Run a design sprint

Great for: 

  • aligning large, multi-discipline teams
  • quickly designing and testing solutions
  • tackling large, complex organizational challenges and breaking them down into smaller tasks

By using design thinking principles and methods, a design sprint is a great way of identifying, prioritizing and prototyping solutions to long term challenges that can help solve major organizational problems with quick action and measurable results.

Some familiarity with design thinking is useful, though not integral, and this strategy can really help a team align if there is some discussion around which problems should be approached first. 

The stage-based structure of the design sprint is also very useful for teams new to design thinking.  The inspiration phase, where you look to competitors that have solved your problem, and the rapid prototyping and testing phases are great for introducing new concepts that will benefit a team in all their future work. 

It can be common for teams to look inward for solutions and so looking to the market for solutions you can iterate on can be very productive. Instilling an agile prototyping and testing mindset can also be great when helping teams move forwards – generating and testing solutions quickly can help save time in the long run and is also pretty exciting!

Break problems down into smaller issues

Organizational challenges and problems are often complicated and large scale in nature. Sometimes, trying to resolve such an issue in one swoop is simply unachievable or overwhelming. Try breaking down such problems into smaller issues that you can work on step by step. You may not be able to solve the problem of churning customers off the bat, but you can work with your team to identify smaller effort but high impact elements and work on those first.

This problem solving strategy can help a team generate momentum, prioritize and get some easy wins. It’s also a great strategy to employ with teams who are just beginning to learn how to approach the problem solving process. If you want some insight into a way to employ this strategy, we recommend looking at our design sprint template below!

Use guiding frameworks or try new methodologies

Some problems are best solved by introducing a major shift in perspective or by using new methodologies that encourage your team to think differently.

Props and tools such as Methodkit , which uses a card-based toolkit for facilitation, or Lego Serious Play can be great ways to engage your team and find an inclusive, democratic problem solving strategy. Remember that play and creativity are great tools for achieving change and whatever the challenge, engaging your participants can be very effective where other strategies may have failed.

LEGO Serious Play

  • Improving core problem solving skills
  • Thinking outside of the box
  • Encouraging creative solutions

LEGO Serious Play is a problem solving methodology designed to get participants thinking differently by using 3D models and kinesthetic learning styles. By physically building LEGO models based on questions and exercises, participants are encouraged to think outside of the box and create their own responses. 

Collaborate LEGO Serious Play exercises are also used to encourage communication and build problem solving skills in a group. By using this problem solving process, you can often help different kinds of learners and personality types contribute and unblock organizational problems with creative thinking. 

Problem solving strategies like LEGO Serious Play are super effective at helping a team solve more skills-based problems such as communication between teams or a lack of creative thinking. Some problems are not suited to LEGO Serious Play and require a different problem solving strategy.

Card Decks and Method Kits

  • New facilitators or non-facilitators 
  • Approaching difficult subjects with a simple, creative framework
  • Engaging those with varied learning styles

Card decks and method kids are great tools for those new to facilitation or for whom facilitation is not the primary role. Card decks such as the emotional culture deck can be used for complete workshops and in many cases, can be used right out of the box. Methodkit has a variety of kits designed for scenarios ranging from personal development through to personas and global challenges so you can find the right deck for your particular needs.

Having an easy to use framework that encourages creativity or a new approach can take some of the friction or planning difficulties out of the workshop process and energize a team in any setting. Simplicity is the key with these methods. By ensuring everyone on your team can get involved and engage with the process as quickly as possible can really contribute to the success of your problem solving strategy.

Source external advice

Looking to peers, experts and external facilitators can be a great way of approaching the problem solving process. Your team may not have the necessary expertise, insights of experience to tackle some issues, or you might simply benefit from a fresh perspective. Some problems may require bringing together an entire team, and coaching managers or team members individually might be the right approach. Remember that not all problems are best resolved in the same manner.

If you’re a solo entrepreneur, peer groups, coaches and mentors can also be invaluable at not only solving specific business problems, but in providing a support network for resolving future challenges. One great approach is to join a Mastermind Group and link up with like-minded individuals and all grow together. Remember that however you approach the sourcing of external advice, do so thoughtfully, respectfully and honestly. Reciprocate where you can and prepare to be surprised by just how kind and helpful your peers can be!

Mastermind Group

  • Solo entrepreneurs or small teams with low capacity
  • Peer learning and gaining outside expertise
  • Getting multiple external points of view quickly

Problem solving in large organizations with lots of skilled team members is one thing, but how about if you work for yourself or in a very small team without the capacity to get the most from a design sprint or LEGO Serious Play session? 

A mastermind group – sometimes known as a peer advisory board – is where a group of people come together to support one another in their own goals, challenges, and businesses. Each participant comes to the group with their own purpose and the other members of the group will help them create solutions, brainstorm ideas, and support one another. 

Mastermind groups are very effective in creating an energized, supportive atmosphere that can deliver meaningful results. Learning from peers from outside of your organization or industry can really help unlock new ways of thinking and drive growth. Access to the experience and skills of your peers can be invaluable in helping fill the gaps in your own ability, particularly in young companies.

A mastermind group is a great solution for solo entrepreneurs, small teams, or for organizations that feel that external expertise or fresh perspectives will be beneficial for them. It is worth noting that Mastermind groups are often only as good as the participants and what they can bring to the group. Participants need to be committed, engaged and understand how to work in this context. 

Coaching and mentoring

  • Focused learning and development
  • Filling skills gaps
  • Working on a range of challenges over time

Receiving advice from a business coach or building a mentor/mentee relationship can be an effective way of resolving certain challenges. The one-to-one format of most coaching and mentor relationships can really help solve the challenges those individuals are having and benefit the organization as a result.

A great mentor can be invaluable when it comes to spotting potential problems before they arise and coming to understand a mentee very well has a host of other business benefits. You might run an internal mentorship program to help develop your team’s problem solving skills and strategies or as part of a large learning and development program. External coaches can also be an important part of your problem solving strategy, filling skills gaps for your management team or helping with specific business issues. 

Now we’ve explored the problem solving process and the steps you will want to go through in order to have an effective session, let’s look at the skills you and your team need to be more effective problem solvers.

Problem solving skills are highly sought after, whatever industry or team you work in. Organizations are keen to employ people who are able to approach problems thoughtfully and find strong, realistic solutions. Whether you are a facilitator , a team leader or a developer, being an effective problem solver is a skill you’ll want to develop.

Problem solving skills form a whole suite of techniques and approaches that an individual uses to not only identify problems but to discuss them productively before then developing appropriate solutions.

Here are some of the most important problem solving skills everyone from executives to junior staff members should learn. We’ve also included an activity or exercise from the SessionLab library that can help you and your team develop that skill. 

If you’re running a workshop or training session to try and improve problem solving skills in your team, try using these methods to supercharge your process!

Problem solving skills checklist

Active listening

Active listening is one of the most important skills anyone who works with people can possess. In short, active listening is a technique used to not only better understand what is being said by an individual, but also to be more aware of the underlying message the speaker is trying to convey. When it comes to problem solving, active listening is integral for understanding the position of every participant and to clarify the challenges, ideas and solutions they bring to the table.

Some active listening skills include:

  • Paying complete attention to the speaker.
  • Removing distractions.
  • Avoid interruption.
  • Taking the time to fully understand before preparing a rebuttal.
  • Responding respectfully and appropriately.
  • Demonstrate attentiveness and positivity with an open posture, making eye contact with the speaker, smiling and nodding if appropriate. Show that you are listening and encourage them to continue.
  • Be aware of and respectful of feelings. Judge the situation and respond appropriately. You can disagree without being disrespectful.   
  • Observe body language. 
  • Paraphrase what was said in your own words, either mentally or verbally.
  • Remain neutral. 
  • Reflect and take a moment before responding.
  • Ask deeper questions based on what is said and clarify points where necessary.   
Active Listening   #hyperisland   #skills   #active listening   #remote-friendly   This activity supports participants to reflect on a question and generate their own solutions using simple principles of active listening and peer coaching. It’s an excellent introduction to active listening but can also be used with groups that are already familiar with it. Participants work in groups of three and take turns being: “the subject”, the listener, and the observer.

Analytical skills

All problem solving models require strong analytical skills, particularly during the beginning of the process and when it comes to analyzing how solutions have performed.

Analytical skills are primarily focused on performing an effective analysis by collecting, studying and parsing data related to a problem or opportunity. 

It often involves spotting patterns, being able to see things from different perspectives and using observable facts and data to make suggestions or produce insight. 

Analytical skills are also important at every stage of the problem solving process and by having these skills, you can ensure that any ideas or solutions you create or backed up analytically and have been sufficiently thought out.

Nine Whys   #innovation   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   With breathtaking simplicity, you can rapidly clarify for individuals and a group what is essentially important in their work. You can quickly reveal when a compelling purpose is missing in a gathering and avoid moving forward without clarity. When a group discovers an unambiguous shared purpose, more freedom and more responsibility are unleashed. You have laid the foundation for spreading and scaling innovations with fidelity.


Trying to solve problems on your own is difficult. Being able to collaborate effectively, with a free exchange of ideas, to delegate and be a productive member of a team is hugely important to all problem solving strategies.

Remember that whatever your role, collaboration is integral, and in a problem solving process, you are all working together to find the best solution for everyone. 

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing   #teamwork   #team   #leadership   #collaboration   In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top. The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.


Being an effective communicator means being empathetic, clear and succinct, asking the right questions, and demonstrating active listening skills throughout any discussion or meeting. 

In a problem solving setting, you need to communicate well in order to progress through each stage of the process effectively. As a team leader, it may also fall to you to facilitate communication between parties who may not see eye to eye. Effective communication also means helping others to express themselves and be heard in a group.

Bus Trip   #feedback   #communication   #appreciation   #closing   #thiagi   #team   This is one of my favourite feedback games. I use Bus Trip at the end of a training session or a meeting, and I use it all the time. The game creates a massive amount of energy with lots of smiles, laughs, and sometimes even a teardrop or two.

Creative problem solving skills can be some of the best tools in your arsenal. Thinking creatively, being able to generate lots of ideas and come up with out of the box solutions is useful at every step of the process. 

The kinds of problems you will likely discuss in a problem solving workshop are often difficult to solve, and by approaching things in a fresh, creative manner, you can often create more innovative solutions.

Having practical creative skills is also a boon when it comes to problem solving. If you can help create quality design sketches and prototypes in record time, it can help bring a team to alignment more quickly or provide a base for further iteration.

The paper clip method   #sharing   #creativity   #warm up   #idea generation   #brainstorming   The power of brainstorming. A training for project leaders, creativity training, and to catalyse getting new solutions.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is one of the fundamental problem solving skills you’ll want to develop when working on developing solutions. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, rationalize and evaluate while being aware of personal bias, outlying factors and remaining open-minded.

Defining and analyzing problems without deploying critical thinking skills can mean you and your team go down the wrong path. Developing solutions to complex issues requires critical thinking too – ensuring your team considers all possibilities and rationally evaluating them. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Data analysis 

Though it shares lots of space with general analytical skills, data analysis skills are something you want to cultivate in their own right in order to be an effective problem solver.

Being good at data analysis doesn’t just mean being able to find insights from data, but also selecting the appropriate data for a given issue, interpreting it effectively and knowing how to model and present that data. Depending on the problem at hand, it might also include a working knowledge of specific data analysis tools and procedures. 

Having a solid grasp of data analysis techniques is useful if you’re leading a problem solving workshop but if you’re not an expert, don’t worry. Bring people into the group who has this skill set and help your team be more effective as a result.

Decision making

All problems need a solution and all solutions require that someone make the decision to implement them. Without strong decision making skills, teams can become bogged down in discussion and less effective as a result. 

Making decisions is a key part of the problem solving process. It’s important to remember that decision making is not restricted to the leadership team. Every staff member makes decisions every day and developing these skills ensures that your team is able to solve problems at any scale. Remember that making decisions does not mean leaping to the first solution but weighing up the options and coming to an informed, well thought out solution to any given problem that works for the whole team.

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow


Most complex organizational problems require multiple people to be involved in delivering the solution. Ensuring that the team and organization can depend on you to take the necessary actions and communicate where necessary is key to ensuring problems are solved effectively.

Being dependable also means working to deadlines and to brief. It is often a matter of creating trust in a team so that everyone can depend on one another to complete the agreed actions in the agreed time frame so that the team can move forward together. Being undependable can create problems of friction and can limit the effectiveness of your solutions so be sure to bear this in mind throughout a project. 

Team Purpose & Culture   #team   #hyperisland   #culture   #remote-friendly   This is an essential process designed to help teams define their purpose (why they exist) and their culture (how they work together to achieve that purpose). Defining these two things will help any team to be more focused and aligned. With support of tangible examples from other companies, the team members work as individuals and a group to codify the way they work together. The goal is a visual manifestation of both the purpose and culture that can be put up in the team’s work space.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an important skill for any successful team member, whether communicating internally or with clients or users. In the problem solving process, emotional intelligence means being attuned to how people are feeling and thinking, communicating effectively and being self-aware of what you bring to a room. 

There are often differences of opinion when working through problem solving processes, and it can be easy to let things become impassioned or combative. Developing your emotional intelligence means being empathetic to your colleagues and managing your own emotions throughout the problem and solution process. Be kind, be thoughtful and put your points across care and attention. 

Being emotionally intelligent is a skill for life and by deploying it at work, you can not only work efficiently but empathetically. Check out the emotional culture workshop template for more!


As we’ve clarified in our facilitation skills post, facilitation is the art of leading people through processes towards agreed-upon objectives in a manner that encourages participation, ownership, and creativity by all those involved. While facilitation is a set of interrelated skills in itself, the broad definition of facilitation can be invaluable when it comes to problem solving. Leading a team through a problem solving process is made more effective if you improve and utilize facilitation skills – whether you’re a manager, team leader or external stakeholder.

The Six Thinking Hats   #creative thinking   #meeting facilitation   #problem solving   #issue resolution   #idea generation   #conflict resolution   The Six Thinking Hats are used by individuals and groups to separate out conflicting styles of thinking. They enable and encourage a group of people to think constructively together in exploring and implementing change, rather than using argument to fight over who is right and who is wrong.


Being flexible is a vital skill when it comes to problem solving. This does not mean immediately bowing to pressure or changing your opinion quickly: instead, being flexible is all about seeing things from new perspectives, receiving new information and factoring it into your thought process.

Flexibility is also important when it comes to rolling out solutions. It might be that other organizational projects have greater priority or require the same resources as your chosen solution. Being flexible means understanding needs and challenges across the team and being open to shifting or arranging your own schedule as necessary. Again, this does not mean immediately making way for other projects. It’s about articulating your own needs, understanding the needs of others and being able to come to a meaningful compromise.

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

Working in any group can lead to unconscious elements of groupthink or situations in which you may not wish to be entirely honest. Disagreeing with the opinions of the executive team or wishing to save the feelings of a coworker can be tricky to navigate, but being honest is absolutely vital when to comes to developing effective solutions and ensuring your voice is heard. 

Remember that being honest does not mean being brutally candid. You can deliver your honest feedback and opinions thoughtfully and without creating friction by using other skills such as emotional intelligence. 

Explore your Values   #hyperisland   #skills   #values   #remote-friendly   Your Values is an exercise for participants to explore what their most important values are. It’s done in an intuitive and rapid way to encourage participants to follow their intuitive feeling rather than over-thinking and finding the “correct” values. It is a good exercise to use to initiate reflection and dialogue around personal values.


The problem solving process is multi-faceted and requires different approaches at certain points of the process. Taking initiative to bring problems to the attention of the team, collect data or lead the solution creating process is always valuable. You might even roadtest your own small scale solutions or brainstorm before a session. Taking initiative is particularly effective if you have good deal of knowledge in that area or have ownership of a particular project and want to get things kickstarted.

That said, be sure to remember to honor the process and work in service of the team. If you are asked to own one part of the problem solving process and you don’t complete that task because your initiative leads you to work on something else, that’s not an effective method of solving business challenges.

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.


A particularly useful problem solving skill for product owners or managers is the ability to remain impartial throughout much of the process. In practice, this means treating all points of view and ideas brought forward in a meeting equally and ensuring that your own areas of interest or ownership are not favored over others. 

There may be a stage in the process where a decision maker has to weigh the cost and ROI of possible solutions against the company roadmap though even then, ensuring that the decision made is based on merit and not personal opinion. 

Empathy map   #frame insights   #create   #design   #issue analysis   An empathy map is a tool to help a design team to empathize with the people they are designing for. You can make an empathy map for a group of people or for a persona. To be used after doing personas when more insights are needed.

Being a good leader means getting a team aligned, energized and focused around a common goal. In the problem solving process, strong leadership helps ensure that the process is efficient, that any conflicts are resolved and that a team is managed in the direction of success.

It’s common for managers or executives to assume this role in a problem solving workshop, though it’s important that the leader maintains impartiality and does not bulldoze the group in a particular direction. Remember that good leadership means working in service of the purpose and team and ensuring the workshop is a safe space for employees of any level to contribute. Take a look at our leadership games and activities post for more exercises and methods to help improve leadership in your organization.

Leadership Pizza   #leadership   #team   #remote-friendly   This leadership development activity offers a self-assessment framework for people to first identify what skills, attributes and attitudes they find important for effective leadership, and then assess their own development and initiate goal setting.

In the context of problem solving, mediation is important in keeping a team engaged, happy and free of conflict. When leading or facilitating a problem solving workshop, you are likely to run into differences of opinion. Depending on the nature of the problem, certain issues may be brought up that are emotive in nature. 

Being an effective mediator means helping those people on either side of such a divide are heard, listen to one another and encouraged to find common ground and a resolution. Mediating skills are useful for leaders and managers in many situations and the problem solving process is no different.

Conflict Responses   #hyperisland   #team   #issue resolution   A workshop for a team to reflect on past conflicts, and use them to generate guidelines for effective conflict handling. The workshop uses the Thomas-Killman model of conflict responses to frame a reflective discussion. Use it to open up a discussion around conflict with a team.


Solving organizational problems is much more effective when following a process or problem solving model. Planning skills are vital in order to structure, deliver and follow-through on a problem solving workshop and ensure your solutions are intelligently deployed.

Planning skills include the ability to organize tasks and a team, plan and design the process and take into account any potential challenges. Taking the time to plan carefully can save time and frustration later in the process and is valuable for ensuring a team is positioned for success.

3 Action Steps   #hyperisland   #action   #remote-friendly   This is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or programme. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.


As organisations grow, the scale and variation of problems they face multiplies. Your team or is likely to face numerous challenges in different areas and so having the skills to analyze and prioritize becomes very important, particularly for those in leadership roles.

A thorough problem solving process is likely to deliver multiple solutions and you may have several different problems you wish to solve simultaneously. Prioritization is the ability to measure the importance, value, and effectiveness of those possible solutions and choose which to enact and in what order. The process of prioritization is integral in ensuring the biggest challenges are addressed with the most impactful solutions.

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

Project management

Some problem solving skills are utilized in a workshop or ideation phases, while others come in useful when it comes to decision making. Overseeing an entire problem solving process and ensuring its success requires strong project management skills. 

While project management incorporates many of the other skills listed here, it is important to note the distinction of considering all of the factors of a project and managing them successfully. Being able to negotiate with stakeholders, manage tasks, time and people, consider costs and ROI, and tie everything together is massively helpful when going through the problem solving process. 

Record keeping

Working out meaningful solutions to organizational challenges is only one part of the process.  Thoughtfully documenting and keeping records of each problem solving step for future consultation is important in ensuring efficiency and meaningful change. 

For example, some problems may be lower priority than others but can be revisited in the future. If the team has ideated on solutions and found some are not up to the task, record those so you can rule them out and avoiding repeating work. Keeping records of the process also helps you improve and refine your problem solving model next time around!

Personal Kanban   #gamestorming   #action   #agile   #project planning   Personal Kanban is a tool for organizing your work to be more efficient and productive. It is based on agile methods and principles.

Research skills

Conducting research to support both the identification of problems and the development of appropriate solutions is important for an effective process. Knowing where to go to collect research, how to conduct research efficiently, and identifying pieces of research are relevant are all things a good researcher can do well. 

In larger groups, not everyone has to demonstrate this ability in order for a problem solving workshop to be effective. That said, having people with research skills involved in the process, particularly if they have existing area knowledge, can help ensure the solutions that are developed with data that supports their intention. Remember that being able to deliver the results of research efficiently and in a way the team can easily understand is also important. The best data in the world is only as effective as how it is delivered and interpreted.

Customer experience map   #ideation   #concepts   #research   #design   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   Customer experience mapping is a method of documenting and visualizing the experience a customer has as they use the product or service. It also maps out their responses to their experiences. To be used when there is a solution (even in a conceptual stage) that can be analyzed.

Risk management

Managing risk is an often overlooked part of the problem solving process. Solutions are often developed with the intention of reducing exposure to risk or solving issues that create risk but sometimes, great solutions are more experimental in nature and as such, deploying them needs to be carefully considered. 

Managing risk means acknowledging that there may be risks associated with more out of the box solutions or trying new things, but that this must be measured against the possible benefits and other organizational factors. 

Be informed, get the right data and stakeholders in the room and you can appropriately factor risk into your decision making process. 

Decisions, Decisions…   #communication   #decision making   #thiagi   #action   #issue analysis   When it comes to decision-making, why are some of us more prone to take risks while others are risk-averse? One explanation might be the way the decision and options were presented.  This exercise, based on Kahneman and Tversky’s classic study , illustrates how the framing effect influences our judgement and our ability to make decisions . The participants are divided into two groups. Both groups are presented with the same problem and two alternative programs for solving them. The two programs both have the same consequences but are presented differently. The debriefing discussion examines how the framing of the program impacted the participant’s decision.


No single person is as good at problem solving as a team. Building an effective team and helping them come together around a common purpose is one of the most important problem solving skills, doubly so for leaders. By bringing a team together and helping them work efficiently, you pave the way for team ownership of a problem and the development of effective solutions. 

In a problem solving workshop, it can be tempting to jump right into the deep end, though taking the time to break the ice, energize the team and align them with a game or exercise will pay off over the course of the day.

Remember that you will likely go through the problem solving process multiple times over an organization’s lifespan and building a strong team culture will make future problem solving more effective. It’s also great to work with people you know, trust and have fun with. Working on team building in and out of the problem solving process is a hallmark of successful teams that can work together to solve business problems.

9 Dimensions Team Building Activity   #ice breaker   #teambuilding   #team   #remote-friendly   9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members. There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.

Time management 

The problem solving process is designed to lead a team from identifying a problem through to delivering a solution and evaluating its effectiveness. Without effective time management skills or timeboxing of tasks, it can be easy for a team to get bogged down or be inefficient.

By using a problem solving model and carefully designing your workshop, you can allocate time efficiently and trust that the process will deliver the results you need in a good timeframe.

Time management also comes into play when it comes to rolling out solutions, particularly those that are experimental in nature. Having a clear timeframe for implementing and evaluating solutions is vital for ensuring their success and being able to pivot if necessary.

Improving your skills at problem solving is often a career-long pursuit though there are methods you can use to make the learning process more efficient and to supercharge your problem solving skillset.

Remember that the skills you need to be a great problem solver have a large overlap with those skills you need to be effective in any role. Investing time and effort to develop your active listening or critical thinking skills is valuable in any context. Here are 7 ways to improve your problem solving skills.

Share best practices

Remember that your team is an excellent source of skills, wisdom, and techniques and that you should all take advantage of one another where possible. Best practices that one team has for solving problems, conducting research or making decisions should be shared across the organization. If you have in-house staff that have done active listening training or are data analysis pros, have them lead a training session. 

Your team is one of your best resources. Create space and internal processes for the sharing of skills so that you can all grow together. 

Ask for help and attend training

Once you’ve figured out you have a skills gap, the next step is to take action to fill that skills gap. That might be by asking your superior for training or coaching, or liaising with team members with that skill set. You might even attend specialized training for certain skills – active listening or critical thinking, for example, are business-critical skills that are regularly offered as part of a training scheme.

Whatever method you choose, remember that taking action of some description is necessary for growth. Whether that means practicing, getting help, attending training or doing some background reading, taking active steps to improve your skills is the way to go.

Learn a process 

Problem solving can be complicated, particularly when attempting to solve large problems for the first time. Using a problem solving process helps give structure to your problem solving efforts and focus on creating outcomes, rather than worrying about the format. 

Tools such as the seven-step problem solving process above are effective because not only do they feature steps that will help a team solve problems, they also develop skills along the way. Each step asks for people to engage with the process using different skills and in doing so, helps the team learn and grow together. Group processes of varying complexity and purpose can also be found in the SessionLab library of facilitation techniques . Using a tried and tested process and really help ease the learning curve for both those leading such a process, as well as those undergoing the purpose.

Effective teams make decisions about where they should and shouldn’t expend additional effort. By using a problem solving process, you can focus on the things that matter, rather than stumbling towards a solution haphazardly. 

Create a feedback loop

Some skills gaps are more obvious than others. It’s possible that your perception of your active listening skills differs from those of your colleagues. 

It’s valuable to create a system where team members can provide feedback in an ordered and friendly manner so they can all learn from one another. Only by identifying areas of improvement can you then work to improve them. 

Remember that feedback systems require oversight and consideration so that they don’t turn into a place to complain about colleagues. Design the system intelligently so that you encourage the creation of learning opportunities, rather than encouraging people to list their pet peeves.

While practice might not make perfect, it does make the problem solving process easier. If you are having trouble with critical thinking, don’t shy away from doing it. Get involved where you can and stretch those muscles as regularly as possible. 

Problem solving skills come more naturally to some than to others and that’s okay. Take opportunities to get involved and see where you can practice your skills in situations outside of a workshop context. Try collaborating in other circumstances at work or conduct data analysis on your own projects. You can often develop those skills you need for problem solving simply by doing them. Get involved!

Use expert exercises and methods

Learn from the best. Our library of 700+ facilitation techniques is full of activities and methods that help develop the skills you need to be an effective problem solver. Check out our templates to see how to approach problem solving and other organizational challenges in a structured and intelligent manner.

There is no single approach to improving problem solving skills, but by using the techniques employed by others you can learn from their example and develop processes that have seen proven results. 

Try new ways of thinking and change your mindset

Using tried and tested exercises that you know well can help deliver results, but you do run the risk of missing out on the learning opportunities offered by new approaches. As with the problem solving process, changing your mindset can remove blockages and be used to develop your problem solving skills.

Most teams have members with mixed skill sets and specialties. Mix people from different teams and share skills and different points of view. Teach your customer support team how to use design thinking methods or help your developers with conflict resolution techniques. Try switching perspectives with facilitation techniques like Flip It! or by using new problem solving methodologies or models. Give design thinking, liberating structures or lego serious play a try if you want to try a new approach. You will find that framing problems in new ways and using existing skills in new contexts can be hugely useful for personal development and improving your skillset. It’s also a lot of fun to try new things. Give it a go!

Encountering business challenges and needing to find appropriate solutions is not unique to your organization. Lots of very smart people have developed methods, theories and approaches to help develop problem solving skills and create effective solutions. Learn from them!

Books like The Art of Thinking Clearly , Think Smarter, or Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow are great places to start, though it’s also worth looking at blogs related to organizations facing similar problems to yours, or browsing for success stories. Seeing how Dropbox massively increased growth and working backward can help you see the skills or approach you might be lacking to solve that same problem. Learning from others by reading their stories or approaches can be time-consuming but ultimately rewarding.

A tired, distracted mind is not in the best position to learn new skills. It can be tempted to burn the candle at both ends and develop problem solving skills outside of work. Absolutely use your time effectively and take opportunities for self-improvement, though remember that rest is hugely important and that without letting your brain rest, you cannot be at your most effective. 

Creating distance between yourself and the problem you might be facing can also be useful. By letting an idea sit, you can find that a better one presents itself or you can develop it further. Take regular breaks when working and create a space for downtime. Remember that working smarter is preferable to working harder and that self-care is important for any effective learning or improvement process.

Want to design better group processes?

problem solving techniques in management information system

Over to you

Now we’ve explored some of the key problem solving skills and the problem solving steps necessary for an effective process, you’re ready to begin developing more effective solutions and leading problem solving workshops.

Need more inspiration? Check out our post on problem solving activities you can use when guiding a group towards a great solution in your next workshop or meeting. Have questions? Did you have a great problem solving technique you use with your team? Get in touch in the comments below. We’d love to chat!

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MindManager Blog

Nine essential problem solving tools: The ultimate guide to finding a solution

October 26, 2023 by MindManager Blog

Problem solving may unfold differently depending on the industry, or even the department you work in. However, most agree that before you can fix any issue, you need to be clear on what it is, why it’s happening, and what your ideal long-term solution will achieve.

Understanding both the nature and the cause of a problem is the only way to figure out which actions will help you resolve it.

Given that most problem-solving processes are part inspiration and part perspiration, you’ll be more successful if you can reach for a problem solving tool that facilitates collaboration, encourages creative thinking, and makes it easier to implement the fix you devise.

The problem solving tools include three unique categories: problem solving diagrams, problem solving mind maps, and problem solving software solutions.

They include:

  • Fishbone diagrams
  • Strategy maps
  • Mental maps
  • Concept maps
  • Layered process audit software
  • Charting software
  • MindManager

In this article, we’ve put together a roundup of versatile problem solving tools and software to help you and your team map out and repair workplace issues as efficiently as possible.

Let’s get started!

Problem solving diagrams

Mapping your way out of a problem is the simplest way to see where you are, and where you need to end up.

Not only do visual problem maps let you plot the most efficient route from Point A (dysfunctional situation) to Point B (flawless process), problem mapping diagrams make it easier to see:

  • The root cause of a dilemma.
  • The steps, resources, and personnel associated with each possible solution.
  • The least time-consuming, most cost-effective options.

A visual problem solving process help to solidify understanding. Furthermore, it’s a great way for you and your team to transform abstract ideas into a practical, reconstructive plan.

Here are three examples of common problem mapping diagrams you can try with your team:

1. Fishbone diagrams

Fishbone diagrams are a common problem solving tool so-named because, once complete, they resemble the skeleton of a fish.

With the possible root causes of an issue (the ribs) branching off from either side of a spine line attached to the head (the problem), dynamic fishbone diagrams let you:

  • Lay out a related set of possible reasons for an existing problem
  • Investigate each possibility by breaking it out into sub-causes
  • See how contributing factors relate to one another

MindManager Fishbone Diagram 1

Fishbone diagrams are also known as cause and effect or Ishikawa diagrams.

2. Flowcharts

A flowchart is an easy-to-understand diagram with a variety of applications. But you can use it to outline and examine how the steps of a flawed process connect.

Flowchart | MindManager

Made up of a few simple symbols linked with arrows indicating workflow direction, flowcharts clearly illustrate what happens at each stage of a process – and how each event impacts other events and decisions.

3. Strategy maps

Frequently used as a strategic planning tool, strategy maps also work well as problem mapping diagrams. Based on a hierarchal system, thoughts and ideas can be arranged on a single page to flesh out a potential resolution.

Strategy Toolkit MindManager 2018

Once you’ve got a few tactics you feel are worth exploring as possible ways to overcome a challenge, a strategy map will help you establish the best route to your problem-solving goal.

Problem solving mind maps

Problem solving mind maps are especially valuable in visualization. Because they facilitate the brainstorming process that plays a key role in both root cause analysis and the identification of potential solutions, they help make problems more solvable.

Mind maps are diagrams that represent your thinking. Since many people struggle taking or working with hand-written or typed notes, mind maps were designed to let you lay out and structure your thoughts visually so you can play with ideas, concepts, and solutions the same way your brain does.

By starting with a single notion that branches out into greater detail, problem solving mind maps make it easy to:

  • Explain unfamiliar problems or processes in less time
  • Share and elaborate on novel ideas
  • Achieve better group comprehension that can lead to more effective solutions

Mind maps are a valuable problem solving tool because they’re geared toward bringing out the flexible thinking that creative solutions require. Here are three types of problem solving mind maps you can use to facilitate the brainstorming process.

4. Mental maps

A mental map helps you get your thoughts about what might be causing a workplace issue out of your head and onto a shared digital space.

Mental Map | MindManager Blog

Because mental maps mirror the way our brains take in and analyze new information, using them to describe your theories visually will help you and your team work through and test those thought models.

5. Idea maps

Mental Map | MindManager Blog

Idea maps let you take advantage of a wide assortment of colors and images to lay down and organize your scattered thought process. Idea maps are ideal brainstorming tools because they allow you to present and explore ideas about the best way to solve a problem collaboratively, and with a shared sense of enthusiasm for outside-the-box thinking.

6. Concept maps

Concept maps are one of the best ways to shape your thoughts around a potential solution because they let you create interlinked, visual representations of intricate concepts.

Concept Map | MindManager Blog

By laying out your suggested problem-solving process digitally – and using lines to form and define relationship connections – your group will be able to see how each piece of the solution puzzle connects with another.

Problem solving software solutions

Problem solving software is the best way to take advantage of multiple problem solving tools in one platform. While some software programs are geared toward specific industries or processes – like manufacturing or customer relationship management, for example – others, like MindManager , are purpose-built to work across multiple trades, departments, and teams.

Here are three problem-solving software examples.

7. Layered process audit software

Layered process audits (LPAs) help companies oversee production processes and keep an eye on the cost and quality of the goods they create. Dedicated LPA software makes problem solving easier for manufacturers because it helps them see where costly leaks are occurring and allows all levels of management to get involved in repairing those leaks.

8. Charting software

Charting software comes in all shapes and sizes to fit a variety of business sectors. Pareto charts, for example, combine bar charts with line graphs so companies can compare different problems or contributing factors to determine their frequency, cost, and significance. Charting software is often used in marketing, where a variety of bar charts and X-Y axis diagrams make it possible to display and examine competitor profiles, customer segmentation, and sales trends.

9. MindManager

No matter where you work, or what your problem-solving role looks like, MindManager is a problem solving software that will make your team more productive in figuring out why a process, plan, or project isn’t working the way it should.

Once you know why an obstruction, shortfall, or difficulty exists, you can use MindManager’s wide range of brainstorming and problem mapping diagrams to:

  • Find the most promising way to correct the situation
  • Activate your chosen solution, and
  • Conduct regular checks to make sure your repair work is sustainable

MindManager is the ultimate problem solving software.

Not only is it versatile enough to use as your go-to system for puzzling out all types of workplace problems, MindManager’s built-in forecasting tools, timeline charts, and warning indicators let you plan, implement, and monitor your solutions.

By allowing your group to work together more effectively to break down problems, uncover solutions, and rebuild processes and workflows, MindManager’s versatile collection of problem solving tools will help make everyone on your team a more efficient problem solver.

Download a free trial today to get started!

Ready to take the next step?

MindManager helps boost collaboration and productivity among remote and hybrid teams to achieve better results, faster.

problem solving techniques in management information system

Why choose MindManager?

MindManager® helps individuals, teams, and enterprises bring greater clarity and structure to plans, projects, and processes. It provides visual productivity tools and mind mapping software to help take you and your organization to where you want to be.

Explore MindManager

13.3 Management Information Systems

  • What types of systems make up a typical company’s management information system?

Whereas individuals use business productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics programs to accomplish a variety of tasks, the job of managing a company’s information needs falls to management information systems: users, hardware, and software that support decision-making. Information systems collect and store the company’s key data and produce the information managers need for analysis, control, and decision-making.

Factories use computer-based information systems to automate production processes and order and monitor inventory. Most companies use them to process customer orders and handle billing and vendor payments. Banks use a variety of information systems to process transactions such as deposits, ATM withdrawals, and loan payments. Most consumer transactions also involve information systems. When you check out at the supermarket, book a hotel room online, or download music over the internet, information systems record and track the transaction and transmit the data to the necessary places.

Companies typically have several types of information systems, starting with systems to process transactions. Management support systems are dynamic systems that allow users to analyze data to make forecasts, identify business trends, and model business strategies. Office automation systems improve the flow of communication throughout the organization. Each type of information system serves a particular level of decision-making: operational, tactical, and strategic. Exhibit 13.6 shows the relationship between transaction processing and management support systems as well as the management levels they serve. Let’s take a more detailed look at how companies and managers use transaction processing and management support systems to manage information.

Transaction Processing Systems

A firm’s integrated information system starts with its transaction processing system (TPS) . The TPS receives raw data from internal and external sources and prepares these data for storage in a database similar to a microcomputer database but vastly larger. In fact, all the company’s key data are stored in a single huge database that becomes the company’s central information resource. As noted earlier, the database management system tracks the data and allows users to query the database for the information they need.

The database can be updated in two ways: batch processing , where data are collected over some time period and processed together, and online , or real-time , processing , which processes data as they become available. Batch processing uses computer resources very efficiently and is well-suited to applications such as payroll processing that require periodic rather than continuous processing. Online processing keeps the company’s data current. When you make an airline reservation, the information is entered into the airline’s information system, and you quickly receive confirmation, typically through an e-mail. Online processing is more expensive than batch processing, so companies must weigh the cost versus the benefit. For example, a factory that operates around the clock may use real-time processing for inventory and other time-sensitive requirements but process accounting data in batches overnight.

Decisions, Decisions: Management Support Systems

Transaction processing systems automate routine and tedious back-office processes such as accounting, order processing, and financial reporting. They reduce clerical expenses and provide basic operational information quickly. Management support systems (MSS) use the internal master database to perform high-level analyses that help managers make better decisions.

Information technologies such as data warehousing are part of more advanced MSSs. A data warehouse combines many databases across the whole company into one central database that supports management decision-making. With a data warehouse, managers can easily access and share data across the enterprise to get a broad overview rather than just isolated segments of information. Data warehouses include software to extract data from operational databases, maintain the data in the warehouse, and provide data to users. They can analyze data much faster than transaction-processing systems. Data warehouses may contain many data marts , special subsets of a data warehouse that each deal with a single area of data. Data marts are organized for quick analysis.

Companies use data warehouses to gather, secure, and analyze data for many purposes, including customer relationship management systems, fraud detection, product-line analysis, and corporate asset management. Retailers might wish to identify customer demographic characteristics and shopping patterns to improve direct-mailing responses. Banks can more easily spot credit-card fraud, as well as analyze customer usage patterns.

According to Forrester Research, about 60 percent of companies with $1 billion or more in revenues use data warehouses as a management tool. Union Pacific (UP), a $19 billion railroad, turned to data warehouse technology to streamline its business operations. By consolidating multiple separate systems, UP achieved a unified supply-chain system that also enhanced its customer service. “Before our data warehouse came into being we had stovepipe systems,” says Roger Bresnahan, principal engineer. “None of them talked to each other. . . . We couldn’t get a whole picture of the railroad.”

UP’s data warehouse system took many years and the involvement of 26 departments to create. The results were well worth the effort: UP can now make more accurate forecasts, identify the best traffic routes, and determine the most profitable market segments. The ability to predict seasonal patterns and manage fuel costs more closely has saved UP millions of dollars by optimizing locomotive and other asset utilization and through more efficient crew management. In just three years, Bresnahan reports, the data warehouse system had paid for itself. 12

At the first level of an MSS is an information-reporting system, which uses summary data collected by the TPS to produce both regularly scheduled and special reports. The level of detail would depend on the user. A company’s payroll personnel might get a weekly payroll report showing how each employee’s paycheck was determined. Higher-level mangers might receive a payroll summary report that shows total labor cost and overtime by department and a comparison of current labor costs with those in the prior year. Exception reports show cases that fail to meet some standard. An accounts receivable exception report that lists all customers with overdue accounts would help collection personnel focus their work. Special reports are generated only when a manager requests them; for example, a report showing sales by region and type of customer can highlight reasons for a sales decline.

Decision Support Systems

A decision support system (DSS) helps managers make decisions using interactive computer models that describe real-world processes. The DSS also uses data from the internal database but looks for specific data that relate to the problems at hand. It is a tool for answering “what if” questions about what would happen if the manager made certain changes. In simple cases, a manager can create a spreadsheet and try changing some of the numbers. For instance, a manager could create a spreadsheet to show the amount of overtime required if the number of workers increases or decreases. With models, the manager enters into the computer the values that describe a particular situation, and the program computes the results. Marketing executives at a furniture company could run DSS models that use sales data and demographic assumptions to develop forecasts of the types of furniture that would appeal to the fastest-growing population groups.

Companies can use a predictive analytics program to improve their inventory management system and use big data to target customer segments for new products and line extensions.

Executive Information Systems

Although similar to a DSS, an executive information system (EIS) is customized for an individual executive. These systems provide specific information for strategic decisions. For example, a CEO’s EIS may include special spreadsheets that present financial data comparing the company to its principal competitors and graphs showing current economic and industry trends.

Expert Systems

An expert system gives managers advice similar to what they would get from a human consultant. Artificial intelligence enables computers to reason and learn to solve problems in much the same way humans do, using what-if reasoning. Although they are expensive and difficult to create, expert systems are finding their way into more companies as more applications are found. Lower-end expert systems can even run on mobile devices. Top-of-the-line systems help airlines appropriately deploy aircraft and crews, critical to the carriers’ efficient operations. The cost of hiring enough people to do these ongoing analytical tasks would be prohibitively expensive. Expert systems have also been used to help explore for oil, schedule employee work shifts, and diagnose illnesses. Some expert systems take the place of human experts, whereas others assist them.

Concept Check

  • What are the main types of management information systems, and what does each do?
  • Differentiate between the types of management support systems, and give examples of how companies use each.

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Home » Management Information Systems » Systems Approach to Problem Solving

Systems Approach to Problem Solving

The systems approach to problem solving used a systems orientation to define problems and opportunities and develop solutions. Studying a problem and formulating a solution involve the following interrelated activities:

  • Recognize and define a problem or opportunity using systems thinking.
  • Develop and evaluate alternative system solutions.
  • Select the system solution that best meets your requirements.
  • Design the selected system solution.
  • Implement and evaluate the success of the designed system.

1. Defining Problems and Opportunities

Problems and opportunities are identified in the first step of the systems approach. A problem can be defined as a basic condition that is causing undesirable results. An opportunity is a basic condition that presents the potential for desirable results. Symptoms must be separated from problems. Symptoms are merely signals of an underlying cause or problem.

Symptom: Sales of a company’s products are declining. Problem: Sales persons are losing orders because they cannot get current information on product prices and availability. Opportunity: We could increase sales significantly if sales persons could receive instant responses to requests for price quotations and product availability.

2. Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is to try to find systems, subsystems, and components of systems in any situation your are studying. This viewpoint ensures that important factors and their interrelationships are considered. This is also known as using a systems context, or having a systemic view of a situation. I example, the business organization or business process in which a problem or opportunity arises could be viewed as a system of input, processing, output, feedback, and control components. Then to understand a problem and save it, you would determine if these basic system functions are being properly performed.

The sales function of a business can be viewed as a system. You could then ask: Is poor sales performance (output) caused by inadequate selling effort (input), out-of-date sales procedures (processing), incorrect sales information (feedback), or inadequate sales management (control)? Figure illustrates this concept.

3. Developing Alternate Solutions

There are usually several different ways to solve any problem or pursue any opportunity. Jumping immediately from problem definition to a single solution is not a good idea. It limits your options and robs you of the chance to consider the advantages and disadvantages of several alternatives. You also lose the chance to combine the best points of several alternative solutions.

Where do alternative solutions come from/ experience is good source. The solutions that have worked, or at least been considered in the past, should be considered again. Another good source of solutions is the advice of others, including the recommendations of consultants and the suggestions of expert systems. You should also use your intuition and ingenuity to come up with a number of creative solutions. These could include what you think is an ideal solution. The, more realistic alternatives that recognize the limited financial, personnel, and other resources of most organizations could be developed. Also, decision support software packages can be used to develop and manipulate financial, marketing, and other business operations. This simulation process can help you generate a variety of alternative solutions. Finally, don’t forget that “doing nothing” about a problem or opportunity is a legitimate solution, with its own advantages and disadvantages.

4. Evaluating Alternate Solutions

Once alternative solutions have been developed, they must be evaluated so that the best solution can be identified. The goal of evaluation is to determine how well each alternative solution meets your business and personal requirements. These requirements are key characteristics and capabilities that you feed are necessary for your personal or business success.

If you were the sales manager of a company, you might develop very specific requirements for solving the sales-related information problems of your salespeople. You would probably insist that any computer-based solution for your sales force be very reliable and easy to use. You might also require that any proposed solution have low start-up costs, or have minimal operating costs compared to present sales processing methods.

Then you would develop evaluation criteria and determine how well each alternative solution meets these criteria. The criteria you develop will reflect how you previously defined business and personal requirements. For example, you will probably develop criteria for such factors as start-up costs, operating costs, ease of use, and reliability. Criteria may be ranked or weighted, based on their importance in meeting your requirements.

5. Selecting the Best Solution

Once all alternative solutions have been evaluated, you can being the process of selecting the best solution. Alternative solutions can be compared to each other because they have been evaluated using the same criteria.

Alternatives with a low accuracy evaluation (an accuracy score less than 10), or a low overall evaluation (an overall score less than 70) should be rejected. Therefore, alternative B for sales data entry is rejected, and alternative A, the use of laptop computers by sales reps, is selected.

6. Desingning and Implementing Solution

Once a solution has been selected, it must be designed and implemented. You may have to depend on other business end users technical staff to help you develop design specifications and an implementation plan. Typically, design specifications might describe the detailed characteristics and capabilities of the people, hardware, software, and data resources and information system activities needed by a new system. An implementation plan specifies the resources, activities, and timing needed for proper implementation. For example, the following items might be included in the design specifications and implementation plan for a computer-based sales support system:

  • Types and sources of computer hardware, and software to be acquired for the sales reps.
  • Operating procedures for the new sales support system.
  • Training of sales reps and other personnel.
  • Conversion procedures and timetable for final implementation.

7. Post Implementation Review

The final step of the systems approach recognizes that an implemented solution can fail to solve the problem for which it was developed. The real world has a way of confounding even the most well-designed solutions. Therefore, the results of implementing a solution should be monitored and evaluated. This is called a postimple-implemented. The focus of this step is to determine if the implemented solution has indeed helped the firm and selected subsystems meet their system objectives. If not, the systems approach assumes you will cycle back to a previous step and make another attempt to find a workable solution.

Related posts:

  • Operations Research approach of problem solving
  • Systems Approach to Management
  • How Creativity Helps in Problem Solving Process?
  • Case Study on Information Systems: Cisco Systems
  • The Concept of Systems
  • Types of Systems
  • Types of Information Systems
  • Strategic Information Systems
  • Business benefits of ERP systems
  • Role of a Systems Analyst in Organizations

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  • Project Management

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What Is Problem Solving in Project Management? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

  • Written by Contributing Writer
  • Updated on August 4, 2023

What Is Problem Solving

In project management , problem-solving is a crucial and necessary skill. Whether you have failed to consider every possible factor impacting a project, a problem arises through no fault of your own, or conditions change that create issues, problems must be addressed promptly to keep projects on track.

In this article, we will define problem-solving and how it impacts projects, provide real-world examples of problem-solving, and give you a structured, step-by-step process to solve problems. We’ll also show you how earning a project management certification can help you gain practical experience in problem-solving methods.

What Is Problem-Solving?

Problem-solving is a process to identify roadblocks or defects that arise during a project. A structured system to define problems, identify root causes, brainstorm and test solutions, and monitor results can affect change to improve performance and overcome challenges.

Effective problem-solving enables teams to deal with uncertainties or gaps in planning to minimize the impact on outcomes.

The Importance of Problem-Solving in Project Management

During a project and operation, problems can arise at any time. You may find that your planning before launching a product, for example, did not consider all the factors that impact results. You may find that you were too optimistic about project timelines, performance, or workforce. Or, as many of us discovered over the past few years, supply chain disruption may make even the best project plans obsolete.

Regardless, your job is identifying, solving, and overcoming these problems. Project managers must be skilled in leading team members through a structured approach to resolving problems.

Proactive problem-solving requires careful consideration of all the variables in a project, including preparation to:

  • Achieve project objectives
  • Address obstacles before they arise
  • Manage project risks and contingency plans
  • Manage communication and collaboration
  • Provide a framework for time and cost management
  • Provide a pathway for continuous improvement

Also Read: 10 Tips on How to Increase Productivity in the Workplace

Problem-Solving Steps in Project Management

While the process you choose to solve problems may vary, here is a seven-step framework many project managers use. This problem-solving method combines primary and secondary problem-solving steps.

#1. Define the Problem

  • Gather data and information from key stakeholders, team members, and project documentation. Include any relevant reporting or data analysis
  • Itemized key details, such as a description of the problem, timelines, outcomes, and impact
  • Frame the issue as a problem statement

A good example of a problem statement might be: An unexpected demand spike has exceeded our current production capacity. How can we still meet customer deadlines for delivery?

#2. Analyze Root Causes

  • Break down issues into smaller components to diagnose bottlenecks or problems
  • Identify the organizational, mechanical, environmental, or operational factors that contribute
  • Distinguish between one-time issues vs. systematic, ongoing areas that need improvement

When analyzing root causes, it’s common to find multiple factors contributing to a problem. As such, it is essential to prioritize issues that have the most significant impact on outcomes.

#3. Brainstorm Potential Solutions

  • Holding specific sessions focused on brainstorming ideas to resolve root causes
  • Build on ideas or suggest combinations or iterations
  • Categorize solutions by types, such as process or input changes, adding additional resources, outsourcing, etc.)

In brainstorming, you should refrain from immediately analyzing suggestions to keep ideas coming.

#4. Evaluate Potential Solutions

  • Reframe the problem and concern for team members, providing a framework for evaluation such as cost, timing, and feasibility
  • With ideas in hand, it is time to evaluate potential solutions. Project managers often employ strategies such as weighted scoring models to rank ideas.
  • Consider the pros and cons in relation to project objectives

As you narrow the list, getting additional insight from subject matter experts to evaluate real-world viability is helpful. For example, if you are proposing a process change in operating a machine, get feedback from skilled operators before implementing changes.

#5. Decide on a Plan of Action

  • Make a decision on which course of action you want to pursue and make sure the solution aligns with your organizational goals
  • Create an action plan to implement the changes, including key milestones
  • Assign project ownership, deadlines, resources, and budgets

Defining what outcomes you need to achieve to declare success is also essential. Are you looking for incremental change or significant improvements, and what timeline are you establishing for measurement?

#6. Implement the Action Plan

  • Communicate the plan with key stakeholders
  • Provide any training associated with the changes
  • Allocate resources necessary for implementation

As part of the action plan, you will also want to detail the measures and monitoring you will put in place to assess process outcomes.

#7. Monitor and Track Results

  • Track solution performance against the action plan and key milestones
  • Solicit feedback from the project team on problem-solving effectiveness
  • Ensure the solution resolves the root cause, creating the desired results without negatively impacting other areas of the operation

You should refine results or start the process over again to increase performance. For example, you may address the root cause but find a need for secondary problem-solving in project management, focusing on other factors.

These problem-solving steps are used repeatedly in lean management and Six Sigma strategies for continuous improvement.

Also Read: 5 Project Management Steps You Need to Know

How Project Management Tools Can Help You in Problem-Solving

Project management software can guide teams through problem-solving, acting as a central repository to provide visibility into the stages of a project.

The best project management software will include the following:

  • Issue tracking to capture problems as they arise
  • Chat and real-time collaboration for discussion and brainstorming
  • Templates for analysis, such as fishbone diagrams
  • Action plans, assigning tasks, ownership, and accountability
  • Dashboards for updates to monitor solutions
  • Reporting on open issues, mitigation, and resolution

Examples of Problem-Solving

Here are some examples of the problem-solving process demonstrating how team members can work through the process to achieve results.

Sign-ups for a New Software Solution Were Well Below First-Month Targets

After analyzing the data, a project team identifies the root cause as inefficient onboarding and account configurations. They then brainstorm solutions. Ideas include re-architecting the software, simplifying onboarding steps, improving the initial training and onboarding process, or applying additional resources to guide customers through the configuration process.

After weighing alternatives, the company invests in streamlining onboarding and developing software to automate configuration.

A Project Was at Risk of Missing a Hard Deadline Due to Supplier Delays

In this case, you already know the root cause: Your supplier cannot deliver the necessary components to complete the project on time. Brainstorming solutions include finding alternative sources for components, considering project redesigns to use different (available) components, negotiating price reductions with customers due to late delivery, or adjusting the scope to complete projects without this component.

After evaluating potential solutions, the project manager might negotiate rush delivery with the original vendor. While this might be more expensive, it enables the business to meet customer deadlines. At the same time, project schedules might be adjusted to account for later-than-expected part delivery.

A Construction Project Is Falling Behind Due to Inclement Weather

Despite months of planning, a major construction project has fallen behind schedule due to bad weather, preventing concrete and masonry work. The problem-solving team brainstorms the problem and evaluates solutions, such as constructing temporary protection from the elements, heating concrete to accelerate curing, and bringing on additional crews once the weather clears.

The project team might decide to focus on tasks not impacted by weather earlier in the process than expected to postpone exterior work until the weather clears.

Also Read: Understanding KPIs in Project Management

Improve Your Problem-Solving and Project Management Skills

This project management course delivered by Simpliearn, in collaboration wiht the University of Massachusetts, can boost your career journey as a project manager. This 24-week online bootcamp aligns with Project Management Institute (PMI) practices, the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, and IASSC-Lean Six Sigma.

This program teaches skills such as:

  • Agile management
  • Customer experience design
  • Design thinking
  • Digital transformation
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

You might also like to read:

5 Essential Project Management Steps You Need to Know

Project Management Frameworks and Methodologies Explained

13 Key Project Management Principles and How to Use Them

Project Management Phases: A Full Breakdown

How To Develop a Great Project Management Plan in 2023

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  • Management Information Systems (MIS): Definition and How It Works

problem solving techniques in management information system

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problem solving techniques in management information system

Management Information System, commonly referred to as MIS is a phrase consisting of three words: management, information and systems. Looking at these three words, it’s easy to define Management Information Systems as systems that provide information to management.

That is the simple definition of MIS that generally sums up what a Management Information System is, and what it should do. However, its role and impact on the smooth operation of a company can never be overemphasized. That is the reason why every successful company makes use of these systems in one way or another.

The reason why Management Information Systems are very important in the day to day operation of companies is because these systems work with people, organizations, technology and relationships among the people and organizations affecting the company.

This means that when properly implemented, Management Information Systems will help achieve a high level of efficiency in a company’s management operations.

Management Information Systems (MIS): Definition and How It Works

© | one photo

This explains why MIS degrees are in high demand globally since the graduates have practical knowledge that will help them develop more efficient solutions thanks to their systems perspective of business processes developed in their training in Management Information Systems.

In the decade between 2014 and 2024, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that MIS professionals, and specifically database administrators, should expect the highest job growth when compared to all the other occupations.

In this guide, we explore 1) the history of Management Information Systems, 2) types of information systems , 3) components of Management Information Systems, 4) its role in business , 5) common advantages and disadvantages of using MIS , and 6) tips for effeccctively applying MIS in your business .


Owing to the strong link between Management Information Systems and technology, the history of these systems goes hand in hand with the history of computing technology.

With that said, we will split the evolution of MIS into five eras. Let’s take a closer look at what changes were effected in each of these eras.

First Era: Computing on Mainframe and Minicomputers

This was the era before 1965 when computing was done on large mainframe computers located in large special rooms designed specifically for the computers. This included special temperature control to ensure that the machines always operated in optimum conditions.

These computers were operated by teams of technicians and hence the cost of operating them was quite high. As a result, most of the computing was done on a time-sharing basis to meet the high costs of owning and operating these mainframes. The dominant supplier of hardware and software in this era was IBM .

With time, technology advanced and towards the end of this era, minicomputers were introduced. The minicomputers were significantly smaller and cheaper, hence large companies could afford to own these and do their computing in-house. However, the minicomputers were still very expensive when compared to today’s standards.

Second Era: Personal Computers

This era began in 1965 and was mainly as a result of the introduction of the microprocessor. This meant that companies could now afford cheaper personal computers, which provided access to computing power that would have cost exorbitant amounts of money just one decade before.

By mid 1980s, personal computers were becoming much more affordable hence they were made available to the mass markets. The predominant ones at this time were the Apple I and Apple II, and the IBM personal computer, commonly referred to as PC. The PC was friendlier to businesses, which explains why it rose to popularity in those early days.

During this era, Management Information Systems started making way into businesses thanks to the development of a spreadsheet application known as VisiCalc (short for “visible calculator”). This application was released originally for the Apple II, but a PC version was also made for the IBM PC when it was produced.

This application is considered by many the factor that turned the microcomputer from an expensive gadget for scientists and enthusiasts to an all-important business tool thus paving way for the modern Management Information Systems. Following the success of the VisiCalc, more powerful spreadsheet applications like the Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft’s Multiplan and later Excel.

Follow this interview with the developers of VisiCalc .

Third Era: Client/Server Networks

With the widening use of computing in business and advances in technology, more needs came from the business community to ensure a more efficient interaction with information. Since companies were able to computing thanks to reduced costs of computers, better ways had to be sought for making the most out of this computing power.

One of the most prominent needs that arose was the need for employees within organizations to share computer information with other employees. The solution was provided by client/server networks that went a long way in enhancing the management information systems we have today.

One big step in this era was the development of intranets which were static websites that gave employees access to information that was stored in a central location. This made it possible to work faster and more efficiently because more people could access information on a server as long as their computers were on a common network.

Fourth Era: Enterprise Computing

The fourth era was an improvement of the third era that saw to it that different departments in companies had even better access to information. The main improvement was the introduction of high speed enterprise networks that enabled faster access to information.

This provided a better and more complete management structure since decision making was easier thanks to the better access of information from different parts of the company. Essentially, the applications used by departments in the company were consolidated and woven together into a single platform that was accessible from the company network.

High-speed networks were also added into the mix to increase the efficiency of the platform. This meant that business operations such as finance, accounting, sales, marketing, inventory and even human resource management could be harmonized to ensure cooperation and efficiency throughout the entire company.

Although the applications used by different departments differed and measures of access control were introduced to limit access to sensitive company information, this era gave top management officials a complete view of the current standing of the entire business.

Fifth Era: Cloud Computing

This is the current era that employs the latest networking technology to further enhance information processing and access by business officials and management executives. The added element in this era is the fact that the networking technology adds a level of mobility to the systems.

This means that irrespective of your location, the configuration that you are using or the hardware that’s available, you will still be able to use business applications and access data stored in company servers. With the improvement of cellphone networks to provide high speed mobile data access and the increase in popularity of Wi-Fi networks, managers have ready access to the Management Information System around the clock hence better decisions can be made faster.

This era frees management from the chains of office-bound computers with local network access. With the rise in popularity of mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablet computers, great levels of mobility are achieved while still improving on efficiency.

This also calls for a change in management style since the workers will be generally more informed due to the ability to produce and consume more information about the business, giving rise to what’s now known as the knowledge worker . Knowledge workers are more empowered and hence more productive naturally.

This means that the command-and-control method of management will no longer be the most effective management style for this worker. As a result, employee autonomy is gradually becoming more and more inevitable.

A beginner’s guide to cloud computing .

[slideshare id=44803904&doc=cloud101editeddeckfinal-150217155954-conversion-gate02&w=710&h=400]


Management Information Systems is one out of several information systems that are used in business. To better understand Management Information Systems, let’s look at the different types of information systems available in business.

  • Transaction Processing Systems. These systems have been designed to collect, process and store transactions that occur in the day to day operations of a company. The system can also be used to cancel or modify transactions done in the past if the need arises. One property of this system that enables them to work effectively is the ability to accurately record multiple transactions even if the different transactions take place simultaneously. They are built to be able to handle large volumes of transactions. Examples include stock control systems, payroll systems, order processing systems etc.
  • Decision Support Systems. These systems help decision makers to make the best decisions by generating statistical projections from analyzed data. Although it does not eliminate the need for the manager’s judgment, it significantly improves the quality of the decision by offering forecasts that help determine the best course of action. These systems compile information from several sources for purposes of aiding in decision making. Examples of these systems include computer supported cooperative work, group decision support systems, logistics systems and financial planning systems.
  • Executive Information Systems. Also known as Executive Support System, this is a tool used for reporting enterprise-wide data to top executives. These systems provide quick and easy to use reports that are presented in graphical displays that are easy to compare. They can be taken as specialized decision support systems because they provide information necessary to help improve the quality of decisions. Owing to the high expectations from such a system, these systems need to be highly individualized hence they are usually custom made for specific clients. They are also customizable to fit the specific needs of the clients.
  • Management Information Systems. These systems make use of information technology to help managers ensure a smooth and efficient running of the organization. Information collected by these systems is structured so that the managers can easily evaluate the company’s current performance vis-à-vis previous outputs. Some of the common types of Management Information Systems include process control systems, human resource management systems, sales and marketing systems, inventory control systems, office automation systems, enterprise resource planning systems, accounting and finance systems and management reporting systems.


To effectively deliver the information needed to decision makers, Management Information Systems need to have the necessary components to collect, process, store and retrieve the information whenever it is needed.

To achieve this, these systems use the following four components:

  • Information System. This is a combination of software, hardware, personnel and infrastructure. This component helps in the collection of data that is stored in the MIS. The hardware includes computers, scanners, printers and network devices. The software elements include the company’s enterprise software and any other software that is used in the running of the company’s network. This component makes it possible for employees to interact with the system and thus information can be collected
  • Database Management System. This component is primarily made up of computer programs that help in the storage and retrieval of data. Of course, it also includes the actual physical databases where the information is stored after it has been captured. There are several different database management systems that can be used in Management Information Systems. The suitability of the systems will depend on the amount of data that will need to be processed and stored in the system. There are small database management systems that can comfortably work on personal computers and there are huge ones that will need larger and more complex machines like mainframe computers. Learn more about database technologies .
  • Intelligence System. This component is concerned with processing of the data collected and presenting it in a manner that is easy to comprehend. Everything from the processing of the data to the displaying of the data is designed to give top executives an easy time as they try to make decisions concerning the business. It is sometimes referred to as business intelligence which stores human knowledge and uses the logic to formulate quick solutions for future problems where patterns match.
  • Research System. This component is concerned with identifying the main management problems in the organization and coming up with alternative decisions that could have sufficed in a particular situation. This helps ensure that all the possible options are analyzed and the best decision made. The best decision is not always the most obvious one. This component of Management Information systems ensures that the best decision is reached even in those instances.


The main role of Management Information Systems is to report on business operations with the purpose of supporting decision making. This is to ensure that the organization is managed in a better and more efficient way so that it can be able to achieve full potential thus gain competitive advantage.

Let’s look at some of the other roles played by Management Information Systems in an organization.

  • To provide information readily to company decision makers. Regardless of whether it is a marketing, financial or operational issue, managers need quick access to information so that they can make good decisions that will have a positive impact on the company’s performance. Management Information Systems enhance this by strategically storing vast amounts of information about the company in a central location that can be easily accessed by managers over a network. This means that managers from different departments have access to the same information hence they will be able to make decisions that collectively help solve the company’s problems in the quickest way.
  • Management Information Systems also help in data collection. Data from everyday operations in the company is collected and brought together with data from sources outside the organization. This enables a healthy and functional relationship between distributors, retail outlets and any other members of the supply chain. It also helps keep good track of performance since production and sales numbers will be recorded and stored in a central database that can be accessed by all members of the MIS. Access to this information also helps ensure that problems are detected early and decisions are made quickly using the latest information.
  • To promote collaboration in the workplace. In any large company, there are many situations that call for input from several individuals or departments before decisions can be made. Without an efficient communication channel, these decisions can take a very long time. Even with good communication channels, if the different stakeholders don’t have access to all the available data, the process would hit a number of snags before it’s complete. Management Information Systems ensure that all the members of the decision-making group have access to all the data that’s required to make the decision even if they are working from different physical locations.
  • To run possible scenarios in different business environments. Before making a decision that will affect the overall standing of the business, a lot of precaution must be taken. There is a need to check and verify that the company will not suffer after making a decision. Management Information Systems enable executives to run what-if scenarios so that they can see how some of the important metrics in the business will be affected by a given decision. The data is presented in easy to understand reports and graphs that make interpretation easy. For example, a human resource manager will be able to tell what will happen to the revenue, production, sales and even profit after reducing the number of workers in a manufacturing department. Another example would be the effect of a price change on profitability. Once executives have been able to see whether or not the decision will be beneficial to the company, it is easier to make good decisions that will not leave the company in chaos.
  • Management Information systems give accurate projections of the company’s standing in the short and long term. Most of the decisions made by top executives in companies have an effect on the company strategies. As a result, some of them may need some modifications done on the company goals or strategies. Most Management Information Systems come with trend analysis features that will enable you to project the performance of a business with the current configuration and how they will be affected once you have implemented any changes that you are considering. The Management Information Systems that don’t have the trend analysis feature will still provide you with enough information to accurately carry out the analysis using external tools.
  • Management Information Systems help track the implementation of particular decisions in a company. Before making a decision, executives use these systems to make projections of the expectations from the particular decision. If they decide to go ahead with the changes, there will be a need to keep monitoring the performance to see if you are on track to achieving the desired results. Management Information Systems give detailed reports and recommendations so that the evaluation of the goals moves smoothly and effectively. You get data that shows if your decisions have had the desired effect. If not, you will be able to take the necessary corrective measures early so that you can get back on track.
  • To improve on the company’s reporting. One of the reasons why Management Information Systems are favored by large companies is the effectiveness of the reporting features. The decisions can be made quickly because the information is presented in an easy to understand format. The fact that the system is accessible by people from different parts of the organization makes it an effective reporting and communication tool. Findings can be shared among colleagues with all the necessary supplementary data. It is also possible to create brief executive summaries that sum up the whole situation for review by senior company executives in situations that need their approval.


There are many benefits that come with applying Management Information Systems. Some of these benefits help make work easier for management while the rest of them help the organization as a whole.

Let’s take a closer look and see what you stand to gain from having a MIS.

  • All stakeholders in the company have access to one single database that holds all the data that will be needed in day to day operations. If the MIS is used for project management , the contractor, client and consultant will be able to achieve a high level of transparency hence it will be easy to develop trust. Operations will also be smoother because information will always be readily available and data collection methods like forms or questionnaires will be standardized.
  • Employees and other stakeholders in the organization will be able to spend more time doing productive tasks. This is because a big chunk of their time is saved thanks to the more efficient information system. This time would have otherwise been spent setting up or retrieving traditional information recording systems such as forms and files. As a result, the company is able to save on manpower costs, while at the same time producing more output in a fixed time span will now be spent productively.
  • Another benefit of Management Information Systems is that they bring the power of data processing tools that help significantly improve the quality of decisions made in the company. A majority of Management Information Systems have built-in data processing tools that are able to draw conclusions based on the inputs received from the different sources. This helps make better plans for material management, manpower allocation and even the overall execution of the project.
  • Owing to the flexibility that is brought by the use of mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones, Management Information Systems ensure that employees have easier and closer interaction with information about the progress of any process within the organization . This also ensures a higher degree of accuracy in data collection since it will be possible to record the progress in smaller milestones throughout the day on mobile devices as opposed to recording once at the end of the day. As a result, management is able to get a better idea of the progress due to the availability of the latest information.
  • Inputs and modifications in these systems are logged and the authors noted. The time when the change has been made is also recorded for future reference. This means that the company is able to achieve a higher degree of accountability since all the actions can always be tracked back to the particular individuals who initiated them. This also means that the best performing employees can also be easily identified since information such as production numbers per shift and sales reports are always available and well presented in the system.
  • Management Information Systems help reduce the amount of paperwork that departments have to deal with thanks to the central database that’s accessible from the company network. This means that in addition to making processes simpler and faster, the company is able to go paperless while at the same time reducing its carbon footprint. The bills also go down since the need for items like plain papers, ink and toner cartridges will be reduced significantly. Transportation costs are also reduced since there will be no need for shipping documents back and forth for approval and signatures. Shelf space will be saved and used for other tasks. Company wastes will also be reduced when the company goes paperless.
  • Reports make it easy for companies to easily identify their strengths and weaknesses in carrying out various tasks. Management Information Systems provide revenue reports, performance reports for employees, expenses tracking reports and many others. When companies use these reports, they are able to improve their operations.
  • From a top executive perspective, Management Information Systems help give an overall impression of where the company stands financially. These systems can also give overall status reports for specific projects within the organization. This enables top executives and managers to easily tell if the company is on track towards achieving its goals.
  • Most Management Information Systems provide a channel for customers to collect and store vital data and feedback from customers. With this data, companies can easily adjust their products and marketing campaigns to better suit the needs of the customers hence improving on sales.
  • With management information systems, a company gains competitive advantage. This is because operations are faster and smoother and thus results are achieved faster and more efficiently. Customers will be happy with the service delivery because they will be getting the answers that they seek faster and employees will be motivated because most of the tasks will become easier with better access to data.
  • MIS helps eliminate redundant roles. When information is stored efficiently, it’s possible to identify parts of a system that are unnecessary. This means that any efforts that were duplicated are eliminated hence the company is able to better use the available resources.


Even with the numerous benefits, there are a number of challenges that companies are likely to face when applying Management Information Systems in their businesses.

  • The first challenge is in the cost of equipment. For a big company to successfully incorporate a Management Information system, there is a need to purchase devices that the employees and management executives will be using to interact with the system. These devices include servers, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. In addition, the company needs to invest in a good network that will connect these devices in order for the system to work effectively.
  • Training of the workforce can also become a problem when applying Management Information Systems in a company. Without a proper understanding of how the system works, it can be hard to reap the full benefits of using it. This therefore makes it necessary for the company to ensure that employees and their managers are well trained on how to use the system. This can be an expensive and time consuming exercise.
  • The systems are expensive to purchase . Owing to the unique needs of each organization, Management Information Systems have to be customized for each company. This means that there has to be brainstorming sessions where the vendors sit with management officials seeking to understand the needs before they can develop the system. As a result, the cost of the system goes up, thus taking it out of reach for small and medium companies.
  • Many companies end up purchasing systems that lack the features they need most . As mentioned earlier, each company has its own unique needs when it comes to Management Information Systems. When you purchase a system that is not meant for your company, you will have better access to data that doesn’t help improve your operations. As a result, you will not be able to get the best return on investment.
  • There is also a need for trained personnel to keep the system in good working order at all times . Like any other system, management information systems need proper maintenance in order for them to produce the best results. This means that you will need to add specialized personnel for system maintenance in your company. Without these people, using the system will be a challenge since errors will go unresolved and this will result in inefficiencies in the operations.
  • Management Information Systems are heavily affected by large changes in the company . This means that before you make any change in the way you run the company, there will be a need to consider the impact of the changes on the information system. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to make some changes without changing the Management Information Systems hence having the system in place ends up being a limitation. However, most small changes should easily be incorporated in a good MIS.
  • Management Information Systems will result in the loss of employment for a number of employees in a company . People like office messengers and traditional registry clerks will need to be reduced or eliminated after the system has been incorporated since some of these tasks will be automatically done on the system. These employees will not be happy about the changes and this can easily result in lawsuits or other problems with trade unions when large numbers of employees are retrenched.


Even with the challenges, it goes without saying that installing a Management Information System is the way to go for businesses to perform better.

This means that companies should find a way of working around the challenges. Here are a number of tips that will help ensure a successful and smooth transition.

Know your needs from the outset

This is the first step towards getting an effective system. Before you even start looking for a vendor, it’s important to first ensure that you know exactly what type of system you want for your company. Make a portfolio score card that is in line with the goals that you have as a company.

This score card should define the objectives and the key performance indicators that you will be using to evaluate your success as a company. This is what you will go with to the vendors.

Evaluate a number of vendors

Once you have established what you need, it’s time to talk to a number of vendors in the market.

Find out about their costs for the system and any additional benefits that you will get when you purchase the system from them. Some of the things to look out for include support, installation, updates and training of employees on how to use the system.

The vendor to choose is the one who offers the system that you need and at the same time, one who will give you the best after sales service to ensure that you have an easy time using the system.

Train your employees well

Don’t assume that your employees will figure out how to use the system once it is in place. Remember, the quality of the decisions made by management from using the MIS will be determined to a large extent by the data that has been captured by employees.

This means that you need to put all the necessary measures in place to ensure that these employees do a good job.

Invest in reliable devices across your company

Investing in enough devices improves the accessibility of the system. This ensures that more data is tracked and as a result, more of it is accessible to management.

Better accessibility also reduces the time taken for data to be entered in the system and as a result making it available faster.

Get a system that only has the features that you need

Instead of investing in a complicated system that is expensive to run and tracks large volumes of data that you don’t need, you should go for something that addresses the immediate needs of your company’s management.

This way, you will not have to pay too much for the system and at the same time, you will not take your workforce through a complicated and unnecessary training process. You will also reduce the chances of errors arising in the use of the system since the features and functions will be easy to understand.

Make sure that you choose a system that is adaptable to changes

The system that you choose should be able to adapt to changes in the company. With time, you might need to change the personnel handling different tasks in the system or the reports that you will need the system to generate.

It is important to ensure that the system is able to handle these small but frequent changes easily without having to contact the developer. If there will be a need to contact the developer, like in the event of large changes, you should discuss this early before you make the decision to purchase the system.

However, most small changes should be effected in-house.

Be prepared for the changes

Incorporating a Management Information System in your business is a big step that will result in many changes in your operations. Be prepared for these changes and prepare your workforce for them.

You will need to train your employees, move some of them from one department to another or even adjusting job descriptions to eliminate redundancy in tasks.

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