It’s been said that for every problem, there is a solution. Yet, when complicated issues arise, it can be all too easy to freeze, at least temporarily.

Because most work processes are complex, interdependent, multi-dimensional systems, the problems that can result are, well, thorny and complicated and multifaceted.

Getting and keeping mutual understanding and alignment are difficult, and it can be all too easy to try to solve a fuzzy problem with an even more vague solution. Or to go rogue and try to fix it on your own.

Instead, when faced with a complex problem:

  1. Facilitate the process
    1. Be or find a skilled and courageous person
    2. Facilitator needs general technical facility (should speak your language) , not specific subject matter expertise
    3. Make facilitation of the process the default at the front end (new process) or for resolving a problem
    4. Practice facilitation on simpler processes and problems to ensure the capability for critical issues
  2. Use methodical, step-wise, problem solving disciplines
    1. Map the overall cause-effect model (e.g. fishbone diagram)
    2. Create hypotheses, then use data and logic to prove/disprove
    3. Remember that correlation is not causation; just because A happened when B occurred, does not mean that B caused A
    4. Look beyond a single cause; complex problems can be multi-variable and interdependent (not one root cause)
  3. Summarize and visualize each step
    1. Use pictures to show relationships and logic
    2. Literally get on the “same page,” page by page
    3. Capture models of processes to not only solve the issue, but for future use and insight

Problem-solving can be as simple as FDV (Facilitate, use Discipline, Visualize), even if the issue at hand is large and intricate. Take the time to work the steps, so that today’s problems don’t turn into tomorrow’s disasters.

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