Problem Solving Terms

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Quite often, what may seem to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems.

Going back to our example, substandard work could be caused by insufficient skills, but excessive workloads could also be contributing, as could excessively short lead times and poor motivation.

For example, consider this problem statement: "We have to find a way of disciplining of people who do substandard work." This doesn't allow you the opportunity of discovering the real reasons for under-performance.

The CATWOE checklist provides a powerful reminder to look at many elements that may contribute to the problem, and to expand your thinking around it.

The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.

For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work.

Many of the tools in this section help you do just that.

We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks.

Using our example of substandard work, Cause-and-Effect diagrams would highlight that a lack of training could contribute to the problem, and they could also highlight possible causes such as work overload and problems with technology.

When your problem occurs within a business process, creating a Flow Chart that's causing your problem.

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