A problem may concern a person, a group, a component within a system, or the entire system. If the problem concerns an individual, facilitate the person’s understanding of causes of the problem, then assist the person in taking effective action to alleviate the problem. Desired outcomes are improvements in emotional, social, or occupational functioning. If you identify a systemic problem in a policy, law, organization, or industrial, scientific, or technical process, you may have an ethical responsibility to correct it. Here is a generic problem-solving process:
Identify symptoms of the problem. In a person, identify evidence of diminished or compromised well-being, mental or physical health, or social or occupational functioning. In a system, identify evidence of inadequacy of a component, or insufficient availability of resources needed to function.
Explore the nature of the problem. Explore specific aspects and elements of the problem. Address human health and well-being issues first.
Define the problem. Summarize all issues in the problem. Identify the deepest root causes of the problem.
List possible solutions of the problem. Explore, evolve, understand, and clearly express alternatives to the current situation (alternatives to situation which would result in positive change).
Define a goal, and objectives to attain the goal (solve the problem). Define a specific goal to achieve positive change. List the possible alternatives which would attain the goal. Prioritize the alternatives, and convert them to realistic, time-limited objectives. Arrange objectives in best sequence for attaining the goal.
Write a plan of action to solve the problem. Create a plan in writing, containing prioritized objectives, to solve the problem.
Execute and manage the plan of action. Whether working with a single individual or coordinating team members, provide each with needed resources, firm guidance, and encouragement. Participate in the problem-solving process to an extent that does not compromise your management effectiveness. Monitor and evaluate progress toward your goal, seeking continual feedback and adjusting actions as needed.
Evaluate the effectiveness of problem-solving actions. When your goal is reached, the problem is solved. Determine if objectives were attained according to plan, and how the problem-solving process could have been done better.
Express appreciation to all who contributed to a solution of the problem. Personally distribute praise equally to all who assisted you. Your praise should briefly describe how their support was helpful.