Is that really the problem?

Edwina Nwaogu Written by Edwina Nwaogu · 1 min read >

The rigour with which a problem is defined is the most important factor in finding a good solution. Most organisations do not consider this when looking for a solution. They try to solve a problem they have not fully defined or understood and in the process, miss opportunities, waste resources and end up proffering solutions that do not address the problem.  Even worse is that the solution causes more problems within the organization. This was made evident in a Case study from the Analysis of Business Problems lecture.

When there is a problem, the mind brings up past experiences and this bias tends to affect the way we frame the problem or make a decision. To engage in better problem framing, one must think about how one is approaching the problem. Ask yourself what in my experience shapes my assumptions and make them appropriate or inappropriate.

People frame problems differently and for various reasons. It could be that they are trying to appear smart or competent rather than frame questions that reflect some mistake on their part.

When framing a problem, consider the following to help in better framing:

  • Remember that a problem is the gap between the current state and the desired state. What is that gap? That is the problem.
  • Does the problem framed allow it to be solved? Does it identify the source of the problem or create more problems, can we find solutions with the way this problem is framed?
  • What are the consequences of how the problem is framed? Are they good or harmful?
  • Is the problem agreed on by all stakeholders? Having discussions with stakeholders about how a problem has been framed can lead to the identification of other framing ideas and information about their pros and cons.

Albert Einstein said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,”.


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