Problem solving

The power of structured problem solving – Part 1

Tunji Odumuboni Written by TJ · 2 min read >


Businesses fail because of poor problem-solving; thus, effective problem-solving skills are crucial for all organizations’ recruitment and promotion processes. Fortunately, executives learn the science and art of effective problem-solving. The LBS #EMBA27 Analysis of Business Problems course (ABP) will provide me with a range of relevant insights that will improve my problem-solving skills.

Before now, I procrastinated in decision-making as I feared the possibility of getting decisions wrong due to a lack of a structured approach towards problem-solving. Thus, I’m particularly excited about the learning opportunities presented by the Analysis of Business Problems (ABP) course. As a business executive, I appreciate that effective problem-solving is an all-important skill as much as what I do daily involves making strategic decisions. These decisions involve solving one problem or the other, e.g. where to deploy my limited resources, what tasks or activities should get my limited time asset, resolving conflict between teams or team members, making cost savings, addressing processes that don’t work well, and you don’t know why.

Being able to make the right decision is one thing; the ability for the decision-maker to clearly articulate the rationale behind their decision is another and requires a systematic way of thinking through the problem-solving process to make the decision outcomes successful and make successful decision making repeatable. Therefore, the ABP course will empower me with the methodology and approach needed to make sound judgments in the face of multiple conflicting solution alternatives and help me work more efficiently with co-workers, customers, partners, and suppliers.

Problems are only worth solving when defined.

During the first ABP class, one critical insight that struck me was that people often make decisions by reacting before fully understanding the problem and all the possible factors involved. Also, the lecturer drew my attention to the fact that most problem solvers tend to prioritize the quickness of a decision over the quality of the decision-making process. There are times when a quick decision is needed. However, most decisions are not immediately required, particularly when the decision adopts a proactive approach to decision making, i.e. making early decisions based on a structured analysis before a decision is forced because of lack of time for the required research and analysis. Thus, I learnt how to put some structure to the usually amorphous state of most problems using the PrOACT method, including the following steps.

  1. ProblemDefining the problem – Just as you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, you can’t define a problem you don’t understand. So problem definition is an essential first step.
  2. ObjectiveSince a decision is only a means to an end, specifying the objectives or end-goal that decision should help achieve is as important if not more important than the decision itself
  3. AlternativeThe different courses of action identified or solution options available given the context of the situation
  4. Criteria & Trade-offsConsiderations that enable a review of the alternatives in line with the identified objectives to facilitate selection of the optimal solution alternative(s)

Some of the other key insights I gleaned from the classes so far include:

  • Prioritise facts over assumptions
  • The solution space is filled with alternatives – only critical thinking can unveil them
  • The apparent choice of solution alternative is not always the right choice 
  • Optimal decisions address the spelt out solution objectives

Much more to write, much more to share… watch this space

Investing and Numbers:

Peter Asemah in Problem solving
  ·   1 min read

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