Here are seven-steps or the problem solving skills for an effective problem-solving process.
- Identify the issues:
- Be clear about what the problem is.
- Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are.
- Separate the listing of issues from the identification of interests like wise(that’s the next step!).
Understand everyone’s interests:
- This is a critical step that is usually missing.
- Interests are the needs that you want satisfied by any given solution. We often ignore our true interests as we become attached to one particular solution.
- Here the best solution is the one that satisfies everyone’s interests.
- This is the time for active listening. Put down your differences for awhile and listen to each other with the intention to understand.
- Separate the naming of interests from the listing of solutions.
List the possible solutions:
- This is the time to do some brainstorming. There may be lots of room for creativity.
- Separate the listing of options from the evaluation of the options.
Evaluate the options:
- What are the pluses and minuses? Honestly!
- Separate the evaluation of options from the selection of options.
Select an option or options:
- What’s the best option, in the balance?
- Is there a way to “bundle” a number of options together for a more satisfactory solution?
- Use your soft skills for the above.
Document the agreement(s):
- Don’t rely on memory.
- Writing it down will help you think through all the details and implications.
Agree on contingencies, monitoring, and evaluation:
- Conditions may change. Make contingency agreements about foreseeable future circumstances (If-then!).
- How will you monitor compliance and follow-through?
- Create opportunities to evaluate the agreements and their implementation. (“Let’s try it this way for three months and then look at it.”)
Especially effective problem solving skills does take some time and attention more of the latter than the former. But less time and attention than is required by a problem not well solved. What it really takes is a willingness to slow down. A problem is like a curve in the road. Take it right and you’ll find yourself in good shape for the straightaway that follows. Take it too fast and you may not be in as good shape.