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?
So much of life’s work is to problem solve. Whether inside of an organization, neighborhood, school, or greater community, a fundamental role of leaders is to identify and address problems. How can we improve participant morale? What’s the best way to increase employee engagement? Who do we need to buy-in to our idea? How can we decrease expenses? These questions must be thoroughly understood before a plausible solution can be found. In this way, it is vital that a leader has the ability to analyze, understand, and solve problems.
- Be Patient in Seeking Solutions
First of all, resist the urge to make premature decisions before fully understanding the breadth and depth of a problem. When dealing with complex situations, 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 don’t address the underlying causes of the problem and therefore only treat symptoms. Wait until you thoroughly understand an issue before you draw conclusions.
- Collect Data
Another way to effectively analyze a problem is to collect data. Go beyond opinions, and find hard data to illuminate the issues creating and sustaining the problem. If no data is available already, create your own by conducting a survey or interviewing people who have first-hand knowledge of the issue at hand. Look at the issues from all perspectives. Ask others what they think about the issue. Collect as much information as possible. Since most organizations deal with similar issues, find out what others are doing to address the same or similar situations.
- 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.