Problem Solved: Seven Steps

This week’s FocalPoint Business Coaching challenge is a continuation of FocalPoint Business Coach Mike Alpert’s response to:

When problems come up whether in business or in life, strategies have to be put in place to solve them. But problem solving itself needs to have a strategy – some standard approach that immediately disseminates the problem into a situation – and that situation, by being acted on is no longer a problem, it’s simply a process.

Brian Tracy in Way to Wealth gives a seven step process for problem solving:

  1. Approach he problem with confidence. Assume it will be solved – don’t let it overwhelm you.
  2. Clarify what the problem is. Define what is going wrong. You can fix it if you don’t know what’s broken. One technique you can use here is Appreciation. State the problem:  “The cat keeps eating the fish.” And then ask, “So?” “So there aren’t any fish in the tank.” “So?” “So there aren’t any fish to look at.” “So?” “So people need something to look at.” Now we’re getting clear on the problem. Maybe we need to buy a television.
  3. Change your language. Like I said in the beginning, this can’t be a problem, it is simply a situation, an opportunity to re-examine a process.
  4. Figure out what makes the situation happen. What is the cause? Why does it happen? This might entail a real careful analysis of processes that the situation occurs in.
  5. List all the possible solutions. If you have clearly defined the causes, you will be able to see the solutions pretty clearly too. Be open minded and let some creativity come into play. Brainstorm. Everyone who is affected by the situation should be given an opportunity to speak to the solutions.
  6. Pick a solution. Be the leader and pick a solution. Don’t be too concerned about it being the right one – any action is better than no action.
  7. Put the solution into action. Make someone responsible for putting the solution into place (yourself?). Set a timeline and a way to measure the effectiveness of the action.

Quick action on a problem is the best solution but be clear on what the problem is and what the solution is or you won’t be solving problems, you’ll be creating them.

A FocalPoint Business Performance Coach can help you bring on board other techniques like the one in step two, that can help you through each step in the problem solving process – making your solutions effective and proactive.


"There are no problems in

"There are no problems in life, only solutions we have not found yet"  - J.O. Lindsay

The people and companies who can best solve problems will be the ones that are the most successful.  Customers approach companies that can best serve their needs, and these needs will always be different form one client to the next.  

There are two main paths in problem solving, Corrective Action and Preventive Action.  This strategy as listed provides a concise means of addressing both requirements.  The challenge for individuals and even for companies is to clearly define the problem in a mental state conducive to creative thought.  Begin with the confidence and belief that the best solution will be found, and the creative process will flow from that point.  All to often when a problem or issue presents itself a vicious cycle starts to form - "we have a problem, -> What are we going to do? -> I don't know -> We have a problem" etc.  Establishing the frame of mind to find many positive solutions is critical to moving beyond such a cycle and attaining success, as individuals and organizations.  

Einstein is quoted as having said  that if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55-minutes defining the problems and 5 minutes finding the solution.  Before jumping right into solving a problem it is important to invest time and effort in understanding the problem.  How many problems have risen because someone previously tried to solve the wrong problem? 

Strategies for Defining the Problem:

  1. Rephrase the question
  2. Expose and challenge all assumptions
  3. Chunk-up - can this same problem zoom to a larger scope
  4. Chunk-down  - are there smaller problems that need to be defined first
  5. Find multiple perspectives
  6. Effective language constructs
  7. Engage everyone involved
  8. Reverse the problem
  9. Gather facts and even opinions 
  10. Problem Solve your Problem statement

Look for the opportunities that are present on each problem. When issues or problems pop up it is a wake up signal that the universe is asking you to make a change in direction. Some of these changes may be small, others of a larger scale or importance.  However, in addressing everything in a consistent process, you will enhance this skill and your success will be assured.

There is a fundamental 8-step to the 7-step problem solving model.  ON a frequent basis review previous problem solving processes for effectiveness.  This effectiveness review is required for many quality systems and is a powerful learning tool for future problems popping up.  Ask yourslef a number of questions:

  • Has this occurred again?
  • Are the constraints and assumptions still valid?
  • What canI learn from that issue?
  • What canI apply to other situations?
  • Are any of the other ideas generated still feasible to implement?

Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.

Mark Lindsay - Focal Point Business and Leadership Coach in Edmonton


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