The Problem Solving Cycle: What Could Go Wrong?

June 2, 2011

In order to solve a problem we must first be aware that there is a problem.In order to be aware one has to define what is it that one should be aware of.A problem is a result or /and a process that is unexpected and /or undesirable.There are many examples to manifest the above definition, undesirable and unexpected: you lost money in a business and you did not expect to lose money. It was not desirable either.An expected undesirable example will be when you know you are in a bad partnership and it is going to be trouble and you nevertheless do not act on it promptly.The third situation when it is desirable but unexpected is also a problem: you made more money than you expected; it was luck and luck cannot be repeated, cannot be reproduced. So, your rejoicing is misplaced. It might make you complacent with dire consequences in a changing environment.If you are not aware that there is a problem, obviously you are not going to act to solve it. Thus, awareness is the precondition to solving problems.Being aware however is not enough. One has now to be conscious of the problem. Conscious means to realize the repercussions of not solving the problem.Many people realize, are aware, that they are eating junk food. But they are not conscious of the repercussions of eating junk food. The repercussions are in the long run and there is always the hope that “ it will not hurt me”, ” it does not apply to me”.Being conscious is not enough for solving a problem either.One needs to diagnose the problem. For that one has to accumulate the appropriate information. With bad information there will most probably be a bad diagnosis.Assume you are aware that the market is changing. It is undesirable but expected. You are conscious that if you do not change the business model you are using you might lose your market and business and the repercussions could be dire.Now what?You have to diagnose what is the problem: how is the market changing, to what, how will it impact your company etc. You have to accumulate information and the next step thereafter is to diagnose that information.And you might fail this step: you could have accumulated the wrong information which gave you the wrong diagnosis or got the right information but made the wrong diagnosis.Let us now say that you were aware that there is a problem, you were conscious of the repercussions, you got the right information and reached the most adequate diagnosis. Now what?Knowing the problem ie having the right diagnosis does not mean you have the right solution. Even some medical doctors fail here: They diagnosed the right illness but prescribed the wrong medicine.Now let us assume that the prescription, the solution, was right. Does it mean we are done? We diagnosed the problem and solved it. What else is there?Guess what? One needs to implement the solution. How many people do you know are aware of being overweight, are conscious that it will cause high blood pressure and diabetes, they diagnosed their problem and concluded that they are eating the wrong food and they know what their diet should be, ie they have the solution in their hand. But notice: they are not acting on the solution. Not implementing it.Now let us assume that the person does implement the solution. Are we done now?No!!! Here is an example: one is aware of being overweight. Easy to be aware. Just get on the scales.Conscious: yes. The blood pressure and cholesterol unacceptably high and you are conscious that it can lead to a heart attack.The diagnosis? You are eating junk food. Solution: get on a diet. When you monitor the implementation of your decision you realize that the implementation is not working well: You depart from the diet frequently. So when monitoring you realize you still have the problemSo start again: The problem is not the junk food. The problem is YOU. You are addicted to salt and sugar and fatty food.So the solution was wrong because it addressed the wrong problem: food. What is needed is a solution that is going to address the right problem: addiction and going on a diet does not solve an addiction problem.You need a totally different solution and if that one does not work either, start the process again and again and again, till the problem disappears. .We can fail in solving a problem along this arduous road:we were not aware there was a problem until it became a crisis. Or,we were aware but ignored doing anything because we were not conscious of its repercussions. Orwe were conscious but we got the wrong data and thus the wrong diagnosis. Orthe data was right but the diagnosis was bad. Orthe diagnosis was right but the prescription of the solution was wrong. Or everything up to this point was right, the diagnosis and the solution, but the implementation was bad. Orthe last mistake: everything was right: we were aware, conscious, got the right data and achieved the right diagnosis and the right solution and implemented it, but we did not monitor how is the implemented solution working.Look what good surgeons do: after the surgery, which is the solution to the problem, they call you and ask you how are you doing. They do post surgery monitoring and they ask how are you although they believe they performed a good surgery. One never knows for sure until the solution actually works.Problem solving is not as easy as: define your problem and solve it.It is a complicated string of steps that need to be taken and along the way many mistakes can be made.What I hope this insight provides is a map to analyze which step was not done well so your problem can be solved.Sincerely,Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes

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Dr. Ichak Adizes