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Powerful Problem Solving

Ideas to become outstanding problem solvers

Arnaud Chevallier
We all solve problems daily

“How should we complement our product portfolio?”

“Why haven’t we met our sales target?”

“How can we reduce illegal immigration?”

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But most of us haven’t received formal
training on how to do it

From Cartoonbank.com

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You can become an outstanding problem solver by
following four steps

1. Define the Problem

2. Diagnose

3. Identify Solutions

4. Execute

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First, define the problem by identifying your key
question and capture it in a problem identification card
Problem Identification Card
Project:

Situation:
C The key issue: the non controversial, relevant information about the
O
N problem. ONLY the relevant information
T
E
X Complication:
T The unique need for change (potentially illustrated by some of its
symptoms/consequences)

Key question: THE question you want to answer


Criteria for a high-quality tree:
S Optional action that will ensure that your tree is of superior quality
C
O
P Implementation parameters: Out of scope:
E
Deadlines, budget, numerical Actions that you could take
objectives, etc. but decide upfront not to

After Andersen Consulting, Issue-Based Problem Solving

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Second, understand the root cause(s) of your
problem by building a “why” issue tree

Keep asking “why” or “how”

Go from the key


question to the analysis
Issue
trees
Are MECE

Are perspicacious

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A tree progresses to the right consistently asking
“why” or “how”

Cause

Diagnostic - “Why?”
Break the problem in its Problem Cause
potential causes
Cause

Action

Solution - “How?”
Identify alternative Problem Action
solutions for the problem
Action

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A tree goes from the key question to the data
sources
Sub-sub- Sub-...- Data needed /
Key question Sub-issue Sub-...-issue Hypothesis Analysis
issue issue Source
H1: Increasing the
price of our entire
family product will A1: Conduct
Of all generate more D1: Client
products? simulation,
revenue than the one interviews
benchmark
lost because of the
➚ prices? associated sales
Of only specific volume decrease
How can we products? H2: ... A2: ... D2: ...
➚ our
➚ publicity? H3: ... A3: ... D3: ...
revenues?
➚ volume?
How can we ➚ offers? H4: ... A4: ... D4: ...
increase our
profitability? For all products
➘ the quantity
of raw
Raw materials Only for specific
materials?
costs? products
Switching suppliers
How can we Get cheaper
➘ our Employee raw
costs? costs? materials? Negotiating better

Other costs?

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Trees rely on mutually exclusive and collectively
exhaustive (MECE) groupings

A B
C
A B A B
D D C

Mutually exclusive Collectively exhaustive


MECE sets
sets sets

Because they don’t study


MECE? enough
Because I grade very
steeply
Why are the grades
Because my evaluation
of my students
tool is inappropriate
mediocre?
Because the material of the
exam wasn’t covered in class
Because they don’t have
the intellectual abilities
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Issue trees are perspicacious: they show
answers that are correct and add value

From Cartoonbank.com

- Where am I?

-At the intersection of Westheimer


- In a car, M’am
and Fourth.

✔ Correct ✔ Correct
✘ Adds value ✔ Adds value
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Once you know the cause of your problem you’re
ready to find solutions by building a “how” tree

Using a plane

Using a helicopter
? Flying
Using a balloon

Using a rocket
How can I go
from NYC to
London? With a raft
Traveling on
the surface
Swimming
Traveling
by sea

Using a
submarine

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You’ll also need to rate which solution is best for you

Price Speed Fun Ranking


Using a plane 1!
Using a helicopter 6
Flying
Using a balloon 3

How can I go
Using a rocket
2
from NYC to
London? Traveling on
With a raft
3
the surface
Swimming
Traveling
by sea
3

Using a
submarine 7

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Then you’re ready to execute your solution: first,
convince others that it’s the right way

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Then, implement it

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1. Define the Problem

2. Diagnose

3. Identify Solutions

4. Execute
See more at
Powerful-Problem-Solving.com
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