Seven steps to solving problems effectively

Sometimes when you are faced with a challenge, you cannot see our way through to even knowing where to start. It feels like you are trying to eat an elephant. However, if you were going to eat an elephant (and I don’t advocate animal cruelty, so imagine a life-size, chocolate one!), you wouldn’t try to do so in one go (I hope?). You would eat it in bite-sized pieces.

So, viewing problem solving in the same way, let’s break it down into seven bite-sized pieces, to help you and your team move towards a solution.

1. Identify the main issue

  • Ensure all involved are clear about what the problem is
  • Take into account everyone’s views as these may differ

2. Understand each person’s needs and interests

  • Think about any needs or interests they want meeting by whatever the solution might be.
  • Ensure everyone actively listens to get a clear understanding of each other’s needs
  • Try to fulfil everyone’s interests
  • Summarise the needs and interests raised

3. Brainstorm all possible solutions

  • On a whiteboard/flipchart or using Post It notes on a wall, write down all the possible solutions to the problem
  • Get creative and think out of the box!

4. Evaluate the various options

  • Assess what the pros and cons are of each option.  Be honest.
  • If you wish, you can apportion a value or score to each pro and con, to assess their importance or otherwise

5. Choose the best option(s)

  • Having evaluated the list of options, discuss and assess which one is the best
  • Can you combine more than one option to satisfy more needs and interests?

6. Record the outcome

  • Ensure you write down all the details about what has been agreed and by whom.  Be specific, include information such as people involved, timescales, methods, results expected.

7. Agree on the process management

  • Ensure you think about all eventualities and make alternative plans in case things don’t work as expected
  • Agree how the process should be monitored and evaluated
  • Set timescales if possible for evaluations to be carried out – frequency and involvement.

Hopefully, by following these steps, they will help you to focus as a manager on the problem and work through solutions with your team.  Evaluating the process and the outcome will enable you to assess what went well and what could be done differently in future situations.


For help and advice with developing yourself or your team, please contact us by completing the form below or email Janet at [email protected].




Photo credit:  Pixabay -computer-3365366_1920