problem solving flowchart

Problem-Solving Flowchart: A Visual Method to Find Perfect Solutions

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

“People ask me questions Lost in confusion Well, I tell them there's no problem Only solutions” —John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”

Despite John Lennon’s lyrics, nobody is free from problems, and that’s especially true in business. Chances are that you encounter some kind of problem at work nearly every day, and maybe you’ve had to “put out a fire” before lunchtime once or twice in your career.

But perhaps what Lennon’s saying is that, no matter what comes our way, we can find solutions. How do you approach problems? Do you have a process in place to ensure that you and your co-workers come to the right solution?

In this article, we will give you some tips on how to find solutions visually through a problem-solving flowchart and other methods.

What is visual problem-solving?

If you are a literal thinker, you may think that visual problem-solving is something that your ophthalmologist does when your vision is blurry. For the rest of us, visual problem-solving involves executing the following steps in a visual way:

Learn more about the steps involved in the problem-solving process .

How to make your problem-solving process more visual

Words pack a lot of power and are very important to how we communicate on a daily basis. Using words alone, you can brainstorm, organize data, identify problems, and come up with possible solutions. The way you write your ideas may make sense to you, but it may not be as easy for other team members to follow.

When you use flowcharts, diagrams, mind maps, and other visuals, the information is easier to digest. Your eyes dart around the page quickly gathering information, more fully engaging your brain to find patterns and make sense of the data.

Identify the problem with mind maps

So you know there is a problem that needs to be solved. Do you know what that problem is? Is there only one problem? Is the problem sum total of a bunch of smaller problems?

You need to ask these kinds of questions to be sure that you are working on the root of the issue. You don’t want to spend too much time and energy solving the wrong problem.

To help you identify the problem, use a mind map. Mind maps can help you visually brainstorm and collect ideas without a strict organization or structure. A mind map more closely aligns with the way a lot of our brains work—participants can bounce from one thought to the next defining the relationships as they go.

basic mind map

Mind mapping to solve a problem includes, but is not limited to, these relatively easy steps:

Alternatively, you could use mind maps to brainstorm solutions once you discover the root cause. Search through Lucidchart’s template library or add the mind map shape library to quickly start your own mind map.

Create a problem-solving flowchart

A mind map is generally a good tool for non-linear thinkers. However, if you are a linear thinker—a person who thinks in terms of step-by-step progression making a flowchart may work better for your problem-solving strategy. A flowchart is a graphical representation of a workflow or process with various shapes connected by arrows representing each step.

Whether you are trying to solve a simple or complex problem, the steps you take to solve that problem with a flowchart are easy and straightforward. Using boxes and other shapes to represent steps, you connect the shapes with arrows that will take you down different paths until you find the logical solution at the end.

project development decision tree

Flowcharts or decision trees are best used to solve problems or answer questions that are likely to come up multiple times. For example, Yoder Lumber , a family-owned hardwood manufacturer, built decision trees in Lucidchart to demonstrate what employees should do in the case of an injury.

To start your problem-solving flowchart, follow these steps:

If your problem involves a process or workflow , you can also use flowcharts to visualize the current state of your process to find the bottleneck or problem that’s costing your company time and money.

manufacturing flow example

Lucidchart has a large library of flowchart templates to help you analyze, design, and document problem-solving processes or any other type of procedure you can think of.

Draw a cause-and-effect diagram

A cause-and-effect diagram is used to analyze the relationship between an event or problem and the reason it happened. There is not always just one underlying cause of a problem, so this visual method can help you think through different potential causes and pinpoint the actual cause of a stated problem.

Cause-and-effect diagrams, created by Kaoru Ishikawa, are also known as Ishikawa diagrams, fishbone diagrams , or herringbone diagrams (because they resemble a fishbone when completed). By organizing causes and effects into smaller categories, these diagrams can be used to examine why things went wrong or might go wrong.

cause-and-effect diagram example

To perform a cause-and-effect analysis, follow these steps.

1. Start with a problem statement.

The problem statement is usually placed in a box or another shape at the far right of your page. Draw a horizontal line, called a “spine” or “backbone,” along the center of the page pointing to your problem statement.

2. Add the categories that represent possible causes.

For example, the category “Materials” may contain causes such as “poor quality,” “too expensive,” and “low inventory.” Draw angled lines (or “bones”) that branch out from the spine to these categories.

3. Add causes to each category.

Draw as many branches as you need to brainstorm the causes that belong in each category.

Like all visuals and diagrams, a cause-and-effect diagram can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be to help you analyze operations and other factors to identify causes related to undesired effects.

Collaborate with Lucidchart

You may have superior problem-solving skills, but that does not mean that you have to solve problems alone. The visual strategies above can help you engage the rest of your team. The more involved the team is in the creation of your visual problem-solving narrative, the more willing they will be to take ownership of the process and the more invested they will be in its outcome.

In Lucidchart, you can simply share the documents with the team members you want to be involved in the problem-solving process. It doesn’t matter where these people are located because Lucidchart documents can be accessed at any time from anywhere in the world.

Whatever method you decide to use to solve problems, work with Lucidchart to create the documents you need. Sign up for a free account today and start diagramming in minutes.

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How to Solve Problems & Get Ideas with These 5 Diagrams

Drawing a digram is a powerful problem solving technique. The right diagram can reveal hidden relationships that lie hidden behind facts and figures. Try these five simple visualizations for everyday decision making.

Do you diagram to develop ideas and plan? If not, you should! Diagramming makes your ideas more solid because they start to exist in the real world, outside of your mind.

Thinkers out there have also developed visual models you can follow to help you plan and make decisions. We'll introduce you to five models and diagramming methods that you may not know, and tips and tools to help you make the most of them.

Personal Performance Model

The Personal Performance Model (developed by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tsch ä ppeler, authors of The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking ) helps you decide whether you should change your job by tracking your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) numerically.

How It Works

You may want to do this in a notebook where you can draw out the model on the pages and flip between them. Alternatively, you could make a line-graph of your answers to track them over time

Every evening for three weeks, ask yourself the following three questions, and insert your answers in the model on a scale of one ('doesn't apply at all') to ten ('totally applies'). Have to. To what extent are my current tasks being imposed on me or demanded of me? Able to. To what extent do my tasks match my abilities? Want to. To what extent does my current task correspond to what I really want? -- The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking

On a three-pointed plane, you'll see that your answers form a "sail".  If your answers change significantly, then the sail is changing, and at least it shows you have variety in your work. The bad days may be only occasional.

If your answers stay roughly the same day-to-day (the sail doesn't change), ask yourself how satisfied you are with that state. Are you getting what you want out of your job? What would you rather, and do you have the means to take the leap?

You might need this diagram when  assessing a job offer in case you're looking for a new career. While there are many apps which can help you make decisions , an analog skill with a simple diagram like this could be a more powerful exercise.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix (developed by former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower) helps you prioritize your tasks and work more efficiently. It's also a good model for people to follow to decide what to handle themselves and what to delegate, delete, seek help with, or automate .

Each of the tasks on your to-do list need to be assigned a quadrant according to which ones are 1) Important and Urgent, 2) Important but Not Urgent, 3) Unimportant and Not Urgent, 4) Unimportant, but Urgent. Then, simply follow the model as shown above to decide what to do when.

You can automate the Eisenhower Matrix with this Google Sheet template by Sidekick . After you open it, go to File > Make a Copy , and you'll have your own version to fill in. As you fill in the list, your to-do items will be automatically sorted on the spreadsheet page labeled "My Prioritized To-Do List".

Obviously you have to do the Q1 items first, but the key to living a great life (or planning a great event) is to figure out when you will do the Q2 items. The items in Q2 make us better. They let us "level up".

If you have always wanted to learn to play guitar, you need to put it in Q2, and the rule for Q2 is that you need to schedule it. If it's important, it needs some time in your schedule, whether that's tomorrow or months down the road. Just because you have no pressing need to learn guitar right away, doesn't mean you keep putting it off forever.

Check out our productivity tip on how to prioritize better .

Gantt Charts

Gantt charts (created by  Karol Adamiecki and independently by Henry Gantt) help you manage the phases of complex projects over time by visually showing what tasks need to be completed on a horizontal time scale. Here's a video with some history and tips from :

To start your Gantt chart simply, try a tool like Smartsheet . Put down your big tasks, and break them down into smaller tasks. Enter the date that each task is to be started and finished, or use your mouse to click and drag on the end points of the subtasks.

Let's say you were planning a wedding.

A big task might be "Organize decorations". That could be split into sub-tasks such as choosing flowers, buying chair covers, and selecting table centerpieces. "Building a guest list" could be a big task including brainstorming attendees, organizing a seating plan, and distributing invitations. Some of these tasks can be done by different people, and some of them have to be done before others, so you can plot all the tasks on your Gantt chart to make sure everyone involved in the planning stays on track and gets done on time.

You can also check out Binfire's product management tool with Gantt Charts for an alternative.

Affinity Diagrams

An affinity diagram helps you brainstorm by building connections between different concepts. It' s a great form of brainstorming for a group.

Unlike traditional group brainstorming, you don't have some people yelling out ideas while others quietly think --"That's a stupid idea," all the while you try to scribble them down on a whiteboard.

You start affinity diagramming by collecting ideas on sticky notes or Post-Its.  Give everyone a stack of sticky notes and a pen, so they can all write their ideas down at once. Give them a prompt,  like, "things you love about our brand" "things our team could work on" or "features of our competitors' product". I nstruct the group to put down one idea per Post-It, and use as many as they like. Use a different color for each question.

After a few minutes of working on each question, put the sticky notes up for everyone to see. Now, you can go through the answers together. You will see common themes emerge among the ideas. Let your group start to move them around and talk about clustering them by what feels right, and what fits the spirit of what the original writer meant.

After everyone seems happy with the clusters of ideas, give each cluster a name. Now you have big themes and concepts for your project that help your team get on the same page, and reveal what's important to the group. Finally, p hotograph the board.

If someone in the group has an iPhone, you can use the Post-It Plus app to capture the post-its, move them around, and share with the group.

Mind maps help you study and build creative ideas by organizing thoughts visually around a concept. It's a little like the opposite process from Affinity Diagramming.

Start by putting the name of your concept in the center of the page, and circle it (like the Cats mindmap I started above in Coggle ). As you're thinking (or paying attention in a classroom or lecture), add branches to that concept and connect it with the big ideas that contribute to it. Branch those concepts off into smaller ideas and notes, and so on and so forth. Use different colors, shapes, and connecting lines as necessary -- or draw illustrations if they help you capture an idea.

When you're done, you'll have a web connecting ideas and concepts together. When you look back on it later, studying will be easy because the concepts won't be displayed linearly, but by how they relate to each other.

If you're mind-mapping to brainstorm, try to approach it from the angle of filling out each of the branches as much as you can. It will help you get past a creative block because if you don't know what to think about next, or what kind of project you should make, you can look to your mind map and ask yourself, "What areas could I stand to fill out more?"

One of my favorite tools for mind mapping is Blumind, for Windows. It's lightweight, has great keyboard shortcuts, and lets you instantly transform your mind map into a variety of different formats like hierarchical organization charts, tree diagrams, and logic diagrams. There are  mind-mapping tools for other platforms  out there too.

What Kinds of Diagrams Do You Use?

There are tons of useful models and diagrams that you can make to solve everyday problems.

What kinds of diagrams do you find yourself using a lot? Let us know what we missed. We'd also love to hear about the kinds of tricky problems you may have had to solve and how you did it -- or challenges that may seem so complicated to plan that you don't know where to begin.

Image Credits : Badges Affinity Diagram by Open Michigan via Flickr

Visual Problem Solving with Mind Maps and Flowcharts

Updated on: 4 August 2022

Everyone has problems, and we spend most of our working lives solving them. For those who find this quite negative, problems can be also termed as Issues, Challenges or Opportunities.

Some people are especially gifted at problem-solving while others struggle. Some are only good at solving some types of problems, while some other are simply great at finding viable solutions for any problem. Society generally calls the latter, smart.

What if I was to tell you that there’s a simple way to solve any problem you may encounter. In fact, it can be regarded as the smart way to solve problems.

Before we get into it, let’s see how people really fail at solving problems.

Problem-Solving   Fails

You Solve the Wrong Problem

Well, if you don’t know what the problem area is and don’t understand it very well, you’ll probably solve a problem that actually doesn’t exist while the actual problem remains as it is.

You Solve It Half Way

Again, this happens if you don’t know what the full problem is. Identifying and understanding the problem is so important before you start.

You Solve it but New Problems Show Up

This is typical when you don’t know much about the background about the problem area. If you know nothing about computers and you try to fix a broken computer, you probably won’t get very far and will likely make it worse.

You Don’t Know How

Well, obviously if you are trying to solve a problem that you have no clue about, this is going to be hard. When that’s the case, get the help of an expert in the domain the problem you are trying to solve belong to.

How to Solve Any Problem

As it’s quite clear the first step to solving any problem is understanding it thoroughly. Apart from getting a domain expert involved, the best trick I can bring you in is to draw it out. If you are a visual person this is the first thing you should do.

Different kinds of problems require different diagrams, but mind maps and flowcharts are common solutions to most problems.

Thinking Around the Problem

To get a background idea on what the problem and problem area is, mind maps can help greatly. Start with the core idea and branch out as you think about various aspects of the problem.

Mind map for visual problem solving

A mind map is a good place to start visual problem solving ( click on image to create your own mind map )

After thinking about wide aspects of the problem, it’s best to document what the immediate context of the issue is.

To do this, a concept map helps. A concept map is a diagram where you use various shapes to show areas of the problem and how they are connected.

Breaking It Down

Any big problem can be broken into a series of smaller problems. These are usually connected so a flowchart helps . Break the problem into smaller steps with a flowchart.

If you are analyzing an existing solution and trying to optimize it, a flowchart makes perfect sense as it also does the ‘defining’ part of the problem as well.

Flowcharts are also great for visual problem solving

Analyze your problem further with a flowchart

Once you have broken down the problem into smaller easily solvable problems in a flow chart , you can start creating another chart for the solution as well.

Getting Help

You should always get help if it’s available when you are solving any problem. A second opinion or a second pair of eyes can help a lot in getting the optimal solution.

Tools to Aid Visual Problem Solving

While there is a myriad of tools to help you draw things, Creately is definitely one of the easiest ways to visualize your problem.

We support mind maps, flowcharts, concept maps and 50+ other diagram types which you can use for visual problem-solving.

Our professionally designed templates and productivity features  help you just focus on the drawing as it’s really easy to draw a beautiful diagram in it.

It also comes with built-in real-time collaboration so it helps when you want to get someone else to collaborate on your problem.

Other choices for drawing diagrams to solve problems include Dia, Google Draw or even Microsoft office packages.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.

Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .

Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.

So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?

In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.

Let’s get started! 

How do you identify problems?

How do you identify the right solution.

Complete problem-solving methods

Problem-solving warm-up activities

Closing activities for a problem-solving process.

Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve. 

Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward. 

Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.

Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.

Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.

With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.  

Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.

After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!

Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.

Tips for more effective problem solving

Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.

Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!

Clearly define the problem

Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.

This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.

Don’t jump to conclusions

It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.

The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.  

Try different approaches  

Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.

Don’t take it personally 

Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.

You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.

Get the right people in the room

Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!

If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.

Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.

Document everything

The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!

Bring a facilitator 

Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!

Develop your problem-solving skills

It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.

You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!

Design the right agenda

Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.

SessionLab makes it easy to plan a process to solve important problems. You can find methods fit for your purpose in the library and add them to your agenda. You’ll even find templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your workshop design.

In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.

Design Sprint 2.0

1. Six Thinking Hats

Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.

Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.

Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.

2. Lightning Decision Jam

Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.

Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.

In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.

From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on. 

By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages. 

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)   #action   #decision making   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #innovation   #design   #remote-friendly   The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow

3. Problem Definition Process

While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design. 

By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.

Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.

This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!

Problem Definition   #problem solving   #idea generation   #creativity   #online   #remote-friendly   A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.

4. The 5 Whys 

Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges. 

The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results. 

By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.

The 5 Whys   #hyperisland   #innovation   This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.

5. World Cafe

World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.

World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!

Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold. 

World Cafe   #hyperisland   #innovation   #issue analysis   World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.

6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)

One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.

With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!

This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.

Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)   #idea generation   #liberating structures   #action   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.

7. Design Sprint 2.0

Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.

Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.

Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.

8. Open space technology

Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.

Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.

Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!

Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.

Open Space Technology   #action plan   #idea generation   #problem solving   #issue analysis   #large group   #online   #remote-friendly   Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation

Techniques to identify and analyze problems

Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.

While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.

We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.

Let’s take a look!

Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?

Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed. 

Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.  

No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.

Flip It!   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.

10. The Creativity Dice

One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed. 

In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.

Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable. 

The Creativity Dice   #creativity   #problem solving   #thiagi   #issue analysis   Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.

11. Fishbone Analysis

Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.

Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around. 

Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish. 

Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.

Fishbone Analysis   #problem solving   ##root cause analysis   #decision making   #online facilitation   A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.

12. Problem Tree 

Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them. 

In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.

Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.

Problem tree   #define intentions   #create   #design   #issue analysis   A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.

13. SWOT Analysis

Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.

Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.

Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward. 

SWOT analysis   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   #meeting facilitation   The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.

14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix

Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.

The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results. 

If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause. 

Agreement-Certainty Matrix   #issue analysis   #liberating structures   #problem solving   You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic .  A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.  It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.  A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.  Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.  A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”  The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.

Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process. 

Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.

It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.

SQUID   #gamestorming   #project planning   #issue analysis   #problem solving   When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.

16. Speed Boat

To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.

Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.

In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!   

Speed Boat   #gamestorming   #problem solving   #action   Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.

17. The Journalistic Six

Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.

Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.

The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How   #idea generation   #issue analysis   #problem solving   #online   #creative thinking   #remote-friendly   A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.

18. LEGO Challenge

Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.

What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO! 

LEGO Challenge   #hyperisland   #team   A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.

19. What, So What, Now What?

If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.

The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems. 

Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.

Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken. 

This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.

W³ – What, So What, Now What?   #issue analysis   #innovation   #liberating structures   You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!

20. Journalists  

Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.

Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.

In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.

Journalists   #vision   #big picture   #issue analysis   #remote-friendly   This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.

Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions 

The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.

Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.

21. Mindspin  

Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly. 

With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation. 

This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex. 

MindSpin   #teampedia   #idea generation   #problem solving   #action   A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.

22. Improved Solutions

After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result. 

One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution. 

Improved Solutions   #creativity   #thiagi   #problem solving   #action   #team   You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.

23. Four Step Sketch

Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged. 

By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.

Four-Step Sketch   #design sprint   #innovation   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper,  Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint

24. 15% Solutions

Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change. 

Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.

Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.   

It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change. 

15% Solutions   #action   #liberating structures   #remote-friendly   You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.  15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change.  With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.

25. How-Now-Wow Matrix

The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process. 

When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.

Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud. 

How-Now-Wow Matrix   #gamestorming   #idea generation   #remote-friendly   When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

26. Impact and Effort Matrix

All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice. 

The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.

Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them. 

Impact and Effort Matrix   #gamestorming   #decision making   #action   #remote-friendly   In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.

27. Dotmocracy

If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action? 

Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus. 

One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively. 

Dotmocracy   #action   #decision making   #group prioritization   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.

All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.

Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.

28. Check-in / Check-out

Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.

Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute. 

If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!

Check-in / Check-out   #team   #opening   #closing   #hyperisland   #remote-friendly   Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.

29. Doodling Together  

Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start. 

Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems. 

Doodling Together   #collaboration   #creativity   #teamwork   #fun   #team   #visual methods   #energiser   #icebreaker   #remote-friendly   Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.

30. Show and Tell

You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.

Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.

By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team! 

Show and Tell   #gamestorming   #action   #opening   #meeting facilitation   Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.

31. Constellations

Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.

Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible. 

Constellations   #trust   #connection   #opening   #coaching   #patterns   #system   Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.

32. Draw a Tree

Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.

Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic. 

Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.

All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.

Draw a Tree   #thiagi   #opening   #perspectives   #remote-friendly   With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.

Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.

Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.

How do I conclude a problem-solving process?

All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.

At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space. 

The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.

Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.

33. One Breath Feedback

Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round. 

One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them. 

One breath feedback   #closing   #feedback   #action   This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

34. Who What When Matrix 

Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.

The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward. 

Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved. 

Who/What/When Matrix   #gamestorming   #action   #project planning   With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.

35. Response cards

Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out! 

Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.

Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised. 

Response Cards   #debriefing   #closing   #structured sharing   #questions and answers   #thiagi   #action   It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.

Over to you

The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.

Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! 

problem solving techniques diagrams

thank you very much for these excellent techniques

problem solving techniques diagrams

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Problem Solving Resources

Case studies, problem solving related topics.

What is Problem Solving?.

Quality Glossary Definition: Problem solving

Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.

Problem Solving visual

Problem Solving Chart

The Problem-Solving Process

In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below.

1. Define the problem

Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes .

The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps. These steps support the involvement of interested parties, the use of factual information, comparison of expectations to reality, and a focus on root causes of a problem. You should begin by:

2. Generate alternative solutions

Postpone the selection of one solution until several problem-solving alternatives have been proposed. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your ideal solution. Once you have decided on the "what should be" model, this target standard becomes the basis for developing a road map for investigating alternatives. Brainstorming and team problem-solving techniques are both useful tools in this stage of problem solving.

Many alternative solutions to the problem should be generated before final evaluation. A common mistake in problem solving is that alternatives are evaluated as they are proposed, so the first acceptable solution is chosen, even if it’s not the best fit. If we focus on trying to get the results we want, we miss the potential for learning something new that will allow for real improvement in the problem-solving process.

3. Evaluate and select an alternative

Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative. They consider the extent to which:

4. Implement and follow up on the solution

Leaders may be called upon to direct others to implement the solution, "sell" the solution, or facilitate the implementation with the help of others. Involving others in the implementation is an effective way to gain buy-in and support and minimize resistance to subsequent changes.

Regardless of how the solution is rolled out, feedback channels should be built into the implementation. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing of actual events against expectations. Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes.

You can also search articles , case studies , and publications  for problem solving resources.

Innovative Business Management Using TRIZ

Introduction To 8D Problem Solving: Including Practical Applications and Examples

The Quality Toolbox

Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action

One Good Idea: Some Sage Advice ( Quality Progress ) The person with the problem just wants it to go away quickly, and the problem-solvers also want to resolve it in as little time as possible because they have other responsibilities. Whatever the urgency, effective problem-solvers have the self-discipline to develop a complete description of the problem.

Diagnostic Quality Problem Solving: A Conceptual Framework And Six Strategies  ( Quality Management Journal ) This paper contributes a conceptual framework for the generic process of diagnosis in quality problem solving by identifying its activities and how they are related.

Weathering The Storm ( Quality Progress ) Even in the most contentious circumstances, this approach describes how to sustain customer-supplier relationships during high-stakes problem solving situations to actually enhance customer-supplier relationships.

The Right Questions ( Quality Progress ) All problem solving begins with a problem description. Make the most of problem solving by asking effective questions.

Solving the Problem ( Quality Progress ) Brush up on your problem-solving skills and address the primary issues with these seven methods.

Refreshing Louisville Metro’s Problem-Solving System  ( Journal for Quality and Participation ) Organization-wide transformation can be tricky, especially when it comes to sustaining any progress made over time. In Louisville Metro, a government organization based in Kentucky, many strategies were used to enact and sustain meaningful transformation.


Quality Improvement Associate Certification--CQIA

Certified Quality Improvement Associate Question Bank

Lean Problem-Solving Tools

Problem Solving Using A3

NEW   Root Cause Analysis E-Learning

Quality 101

Making the Connection In this exclusive QP webcast, Jack ReVelle, ASQ Fellow and author, shares how quality tools can be combined to create a powerful problem-solving force.

Adapted from The Executive Guide to Improvement and Change , ASQ Quality Press.

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problem solving techniques diagrams

Common Learning Portal

Updated September 13, 2016 September 13, 2016 | Service Wide Skills

One of the best ways of analyzing a problem is by using a diagram and visually mapping it out. Diagrams allow you to move from the broad ideas to the finer details of a problem, see how organizational parts interact with each other and how complex systems operate.

Three problem solving diagrams you can use are the Tree Diagram, Swim Lane Diagram and Systems Diagram. Each diagram has its own strengths, depending on the problem or issue you want to study.

Tree Diagrams

Tree diagrams are usually associated with math and calculating probabilities or chart a series of events. However, they can be useful in the workplace in analyzing options, solving problems and brainstorming ideas.

What is a tree diagram?

A tree diagram is a visual depiction of relationships that start from a central “trunk” – the problem you want to solve. Each possible solution is a “branch;” additional steps or decisions are “second layer branches.” The tree diagram breaks down a problem into finer and finer levels of detail, simplifying complex issues and making it easier to get an overview of your options.

Here is a sample tree diagram:

sample tree diagram

Tree diagrams can help you:

Find out more information about tree diagrams .

Swim Lane Diagrams

Swim lane diagrams are helpful for streamlining operations and flatten organizational structure. If your organization has multiple departments or teams that work together on projects, you may find some inefficiency, gaps or duplication of efforts. The swim lane diagram can help identify these problem areas and find where you can improve.

How does a swim lane diagram work?

First, answer these questions:

Next, create the diagram. Here is a sample swim lane diagram:

swim lane diagram of a sales transaction

Now, analyze the diagram for areas of improvement. Ask yourself:

Find out more about swim lane diagrams .

Systems Diagrams

Systems diagrams allow you to map out how complex systems work. They help you think through the way in which factors within a system interact and feed back upon themselves.

Systems Diagrams can answer:

Here is a sample systems diagram:

sample systems diagram

Find out more information about systems diagrams .

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Fishbone Diagrams for Consequential Problem-Solving


Visualize Processes and Improve

The most successful businesses are not perfect. They are resilient. Every business encounters problems; most encounter them frequently. The ones that thrive are developing a problem-solving culture and arm employees with the tools to find and resolve the root causes of issues effectively. When employees are effective, empowered problem-solvers, obstacles turn into opportunities. One powerful problem-solving tool is the Fishbone Diagram.

Fishbone 3

What is a Fishbone Diagram?

A Fishbone Diagram also called an Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram is a visual management tool used to document all the potential causes of a problem to uncover the root causes. The Fishbone Diagram helps users group these causes into categories and provides a structure to display them. When used effectively, it ensures that teams address the actual cause of the problem and don’t just implement a Band-aid solution.

The Fishbone Diagram is called such due to its resemblance to a fish’s skeleton. It was developed by Kaoru Ishikawa and became popular in the 1960s. It is used within many modern quality management methodologies, including Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. 

When to Use a Fishbone Diagram

Although we refer to the Fishbone Diagram as a structured problem-solving tool, it has other uses. It is helpful in breaking down the contributors to any process or system. Some ways to use it to test a problem statement, conduct root cause analysis, predict the results of a new process, streamline an existing process, improve quality outcomes, and uncover bottlenecks. 

How to Use a Fishbone Diagram

Fishbone Diagram - Define the Problem

Step 1: Define the Problem

The first step in problem-solving, whether you use the Fishbone or not, is defining the problem correctly. Ideally, the problem statement will include an objective metric that can be used to determine success. For example, a problem statement such as, “The contact center abandon rate is too high,” will not be as helpful as a statement like, “The contact center abandon rate increased by 20% last month.”

In terms of the Diagram, the problem statement represents the “head” of the fish.

Keep in mind:

Step 2: Decide on Categories of Causes

The Fishbone tool forces you to think about the potential causes for the problem in several categories represented by the bones. The number will depend on the type and complexity of the problem. You can choose categories that make sense for your project, but in manufacturing, the 6 Ms are often used. They include:

Another commonly used structure is the McKinsey 7S Framework, which includes Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared Values, Skills, Style, and Staff. Marketers may go with the 4Ps of Marketing; Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. Non-manufacturing process may include additional categories such as:

In our software call center abandon rate example, we’ll choose the categories of :

Fishbone Diagram - Causes and Roots

Step 3: Brainstorm Potential Causes and Identify Roots

Now that the categories are defined, the team can go through each one and try to determine all the individual influences that can affect our results. Look at each type and list everything that falls within it. If a potential cause sounds more like a symptom than the root of the matter, the 5 Whys technique can be used to ensure that bottom-line reasons are included. If a source cause supersedes a potential cause, it can be removed from the diagram, or you can use strikethrough to preserve it while moving on to the fundamental problem. In this example, I’ve struck through “Low morale” as a potential cause because it is most likely a symptom of the lack of training and scheduling problems.

Step 4: Analyze the Diagram and Determine Next Steps

The Fishbone Diagram does not direct you to the solution, but it gives you an idea about where to look. By identifying potential causes in this manner, the team can assess the impact of each and brainstorm possible solutions. As in the case of our example, you’ll probably find more opportunities for improvement than you can tackle at once, but the exercise will put the team in a better position to decide what to do next. The Fishbone Diagram also becomes a good starting point for the next improvement cycle once your most critical root causes are addressed.

See How it Works: Schedule a Demo

The benefits of digital fishbone diagrams.

Back in the 1960s when the Fishbone Diagram was introduced, teams used paper to visualize their problem statement and possible causes. While that approach is acceptable for small groups working in the same space for a short period, it is not ideal for the way people work today.

That’s why KaiNexus has incorporated Fishbone Diagrams into our continuous improvement software platform. 

Using digital Fishbone Diagrams that are integrated with your improvement management software will help your team solve problems faster and accelerate the pace of positive change.

Fishbone Diagram Tips

The Fishbone diagram approach is not complicated, but you can do a few things to get the most out of it. We recommend:

KaiNexus is delighted to put one more digital improvement tool in the hands of our customers. If you’d like to know more about the impact of KaiNexus, one of our experts is available to help.

Fishbone Diagram - Categories

Want to learn more about KaiNexus Fishbone Diagrams?

Check out our fishbone video or for more information..

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