The ability to examine and understand the breadth and depth of any given problem
What is it?
Problem analysis is the ability to thoroughly understand any given situation or problem including its history, causes, and barriers to resolution.
Why is it important?
Much of the work that companies do is solving problems. How can we increase sales? How can we decrease expenses? What can we do to improve employee engagement? Why aren’t the design engineers creating new, innovative products for us? These issues must be thoroughly examined before a plausible solution can be found. In this way, the success of any organization is actually dependent upon its ability to understand, analyze, and solve problems.
Be Patient When Seeking Solutions
First of all, resist the urge to make premature decisions before fully understanding the depth of a problem. When dealing with complex problems, solutions that suggest, “all we need to do is this,” may be naïve and short-sighted. While simplicity is to be admired, most solutions are just not that easy; they fail to address the underlying causes of the problem and therefore only treat symptoms. Wait until you thoroughly understand an issue before you draw conclusions.
One of the best ways to analyze a problem is to collect data. Go beyond opinions. Find hard data that illuminates the issues creating and sustaining the problem. If there is no hard data already available, generate your own by conducting a survey or interviewing people who have first-hand knowledge of the problem. Look at the issues from all perspectives. Ask others what they think about the issue. Since most companies deal with the same issues, find out what others are doing to address the same or similar problems.
Do a Formal Analysis
Finally, use a formal analytical system. There are a wealth of problem analysis tools available such as fishbone diagrams, 5 whys, root cause analysis, process flow charts and problem trees that can help you organize your analysis. These tools help you to thoroughly understand the problem from many angles. They force you to be disciplined and help you make a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the problem. Learn two or three of them well enough to employ them whenever they are needed.