Note of training - Problem Solving

Note of training - Problem Solving

Hi all guys~

It was an internal training session of my company. I would like to share this.

It is “Problem solving and effective presentation”, and here’s the time for the first part. Here we go.

Problem solving framework

It is a framework allow us to manage problems coming everyday. There are 4 core steps of the framework.

  1. Defining the actual problem
  2. Structuring the problem
  3. Analysing the problem
  4. Synthesising the problem

1. What is the actual problem? Go Define it.

SMART scenario

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
    make it clear to understand
  • Measurable
    make it computable
  • Actionable
    make it feasible to take actions
  • Realistic
    make it on the reality basis
  • Time-bound
    make it bound to time

For example,

  • Our company needs to expand 3 branches within this year
  • Our team needs to move the office in city A for new members and it will be 15. The process must be finished by 2 months
  • There is a request from big boss to figure out a new promotion for Super smart security app. It should increase the active users by 15% and the period is from January to March this year.

Let’s say, we already get what is our problem. Next is:

Problem Statement Worksheet

It’s just a paperwork to fill all components of that problem:

  1. Statement
    It’s the problem.
  2. Context/Perspective
    How about the situation and complexity related to the problem?
  3. Criteria
    What are main conditions?
  4. Scope
    The domain of the problem
  5. Constraint
    Limitations
  6. Stakeholders
    Related people of the problem
  7. Key source
    Need knowledge, materials, documents or other sources?

Given an example

That’s a good news for us that the revenue is gradually increasing year-by-year. Our next goal is to expanding customer base by adding 3 branches in the major cities .

The plan is by this year-end.

Ok, go.

  1. Statement
    The company requires 3 branches within this year.
  2. Context/Perspective
    The revenue is growing. Therefore, the company is going to expanding customer base in major cities within this year.
  3. Criteria
    more branches in major cities within this year.
  4. Scope
    Increasing customer base by the new branches
  5. Constraint
    • Find out the best location in major cities
    • Plan for more staffs
  6. Stakeholders: people
    Owners, boards, all staffs, shareholders, towards the customers
  7. Key source
    • Location-based researches
    • Competitor studies

I’ve just written in short. In real case we need the real information, don’t we?

Key points

  1. The worksheet is for communication between all stakeholders and make all of us are on the same page.
  2. The worksheet is not always static. It is supposed to be flexible and aligned the current situation.
  3. No need to know all answers. We have to know enough to conclude and communicate with our team

2. Structuring by slice the problem into pieces

Most often, the problem comes that big and we cannot solve them all at once. The way we should do is to structure it into many pieces and solve that tiny pieces one-by-one.

This step has 2 sub-topics:

  1. Structure it
  2. Prioritise it

first – structure the problem

Let me show this Issue Tree.

I believe that in the time we cannot figure out all solutions, so issue tree is a tool for that.

There are 2 bullets before we write an issue tree, that is:

  • MECE: Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive
    Each of pieces must be non-overlapping and will be 100% assembled. It is the main feature of issue tree that picture us all of relevant issues. As figure above, we can say, there are only 3 cities as our choices for location. they aren’t overlap and 100% assembled.
  • KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
    Write it concise to align our team’s understanding. We can edit it any time.

second – prioritise the issues

It is 80:20 rule that say, only 20% of our effort and time generates 80% of outcome, the rest 80% of effort and time is for decoration or else which is not the core.

We have key points:

  1. Prioritising is not always done at a single time and be revised when needed.
  2. Keep it simple and quick
  3. Different situation affects different prioritization
  4. First focus on time and effort

3. Analysing it

Problem analysis worksheet

This helps us find out the answers in preparation

  1. Issue
    Build a Yes/No question
  2. Hypothesis
    Give an answer Yes or No
  3. Supporting rationale
    Provide the reasons to support the hypothesis
  4. Analyses
    Create model to prove the hypothesis
  5. Sources
    Refer internal/external source of the model

For example,

Issue Do we have to expanding the first branch in Area A1 of City A?
Hypothesis Yes, we do.
Supporting rationale 1. Found target-group customers in there
2. High potential customers
3. No competitors yet in that location
Analyses News about our new branch with promotion
Sources • Customer observation
• Marketing research
• Marketing discussion
• folks interviews

work plan

Assume we’ve finished analysis, this is the time to plan to work and its points

  1. Actionability
  2. Accountability
  3. Clarity
  4. Concision

Below is the sample work plan calendar.

4. Synthesis the problem

We reach the final step.

This step, we will find the result in form of synthesis not summary

Summary Condensed statement of facts
Synthesis Implication of facts

Pyramid principles

This pyramid will lead to the final answers.

  • Thought: the final form of synthesis
  • Key line: the groups of ideas before thought
  • Supporting context: supporting statements of ideas

And we find this:

Sanity-check

Ok, supposedly we have done all 4 steps above and get an answer. After that we need to recheck with the initial questions.

As the example, we got the conclusion that our new branches should be in Area B1, B3 of City B and Area C3 of City C.


That’s all for the first part, I will write the article of Effective presentation then.

See ya~

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