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10 questions you need to ask in solving problems

10 questions to clarify the "problem" and get a solution

We've all faced problems before, and we have seen skilled problem solvers address the matter and set things right, and we have also seen terrible managers who come in and mess things up even more! We have written about the impact of the growth mindset on problem-solving in our ebook, (click here to download a copy of the eBook) so we shall not belabour that point. Instead, we will focus on 10 questions that every good problem-solver must ask - and no, it is NOT "Whose fault is it, anyway?"

1. What were we looking to achieve?

This first question is vital because it seeks to establish the intent for the initial actions before the "problem" was discovered. It also helps us determine if we indeed still have a problem, especially if the initial intent is no longer valid.

2. Where did we go right?

This next question recognises that we have done things right, and we want to know just how much of it has been done. The closer we are to the intent before there was divergence (from being right), the easier it is for us to set it right.

3. Where did we go wrong?

Here is where we now look at the divergent point. It is important to know just where we started to drift from the original course and to see just what we need to do to get back on course.

4. What caused us to go wrong?

Understanding the root cause of our problem is vital for us to solve it. For straight forward problems, using the 5 Why's will be sufficient. In more complex systemic problems, you might have to use a system diagram.

5. What are we NOW trying to achieve?

Once you have understood the root cause of our "problem" and where you are headed, you need to decide if you still intend to carry on with the initial intent, or to decide on another. This is also known as pivoting, and it is a very essential element in remaining relevant in a changing economy.

6. What have we done since?

This question may not always be applicable. However, it could be that the new intent has been established earlier and actions have already been taken. We need to agree to the new direction and the actions taken.

7. What are we now expecting?

This is another important question because it allows us to set up the indicators of where we are headed, and if we don't see them at the appointed time, we must again make a pivot.

8. When can we expect to see that happening?

Hence this next question. Only in knowing when to expect it to happen, would we then be able to make appropriate pivot decisions.

9. What will we do if it does not happen?

So this is where contingency planning comes in. You cannot be caught off guard. Do your scenario thinking, and use the worst-case scenario to figure out your contingency plans.

10. Who shall we thank for doing this?

Lastly, never forget the people who are doing this for you. Remember, a problem can be caused by people, but most people don't deliberately make mistakes - if they did, you need to take other actions - so let us thank them for helping right the "wrong", to contribute to the solution.

These questions may be simple, but the answers to them can be very revealing. Ask them with a learning mindset, and not an accusing one, and you will be able to navigate life's difficulties.

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