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9 essential problem solving tools: the ultimate guide

July 7, 2020 by leannearmstrong

By: Leanne Armstrong

Some studies have suggested that the average business professional spends 3 hours every week solving work-related problems!

Problem solving may unfold differently depending on the industry, or even the department you work in. But most of us will agree that before you can fix any issue, you need to be clear on what it is, why it’s happening, and what your ideal long-term solution will achieve.

Understanding both the nature and the cause of a problem is the only way to figure out which actions will help you resolve it.

And given that most problem-solving processes are part inspiration, part perspiration, you’ll be more successful, more often, if you can reach for a problem solving tool that facilitates collaboration, encourages creative thinking, and makes it easier to implement the fix you devise.

We’ve put together this roundup of versatile problem solving tools and software to help you and your team map out and repair workplace issues as efficiently as possible. The problem solving tools include three unique categories: problem solving diagrams, problem solving mind maps, and problem solving software solutions. They include:

Let’s get started!

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Problem solving diagrams

Mapping your way out of a problem is the simplest way to see where you are, and where you need to end up.

Not only do visual problem maps let you plot the most efficient route from Point A (dysfunctional situation) to Point B (flawless process), problem mapping diagrams make it easier to see:

A visual problem solving process help to solidify understanding and are a great way for you and your team to transform abstract ideas into a practical, reconstructive plan.

Here are three examples of common problem mapping diagrams you can try with your team.

1. Fishbone diagrams

Fishbone diagrams are a common problem solving tool so-named because, once complete, they resemble the skeleton of a fish.

With the possible root causes of an issue (the ribs) branching off from either side of a spine line attached to the head (the problem), dynamic fishbone diagrams let you:

MindManager Fishbone Diagram 1

2. Flowcharts

Flowchart | MindManager

3. Strategy maps

Strategy Toolkit MindManager 2018

Problem solving mind maps

Problem solving mind maps are especially valuable in visualization. Because they facilitate the brainstorming process that plays a key role in both root cause analysis and the identification of potential solutions, they help make problems more solvable.

Mind maps are diagrams that represent your thinking. Since many people struggle taking or working with hand-written or typed notes, mind maps were designed to let you lay out and structure your thoughts visually so you can play with ideas, concepts, and solutions the same way your brain does.

By starting with a single notion that branches out into greater detail, problem solving mind maps make it easy to:

Mind maps are a valuable problem solving tool because they’re geared toward bringing out the flexible thinking that creative solutions require. Here are three types of problem solving mind maps you can use to facilitate the brainstorming process.

4. Mental maps

Mental Map | MindManager Blog

5. Idea maps

Mental Map | MindManager Blog

6. Concept maps

Concept Map | MindManager Blog

Problem solving software solutions

Problem solving software is the best way to take advantage of multiple problem solving tools in one platform. While some software programs are geared toward specific industries or processes – like manufacturing or customer relationship management, for example – others, like MindManager , are purpose-built to work across multiple trades, departments, and teams.

Here are three problem-solving software examples.

7. Layered process audit software

Layered process audits (LPAs) help companies oversee production processes and keep an eye on the cost and quality of the goods they create. Dedicated LPA software makes problem solving easier for manufacturers because it helps them see where costly leaks are occurring and allows all levels of management to get involved in repairing those leaks.

8. Charting software

Charting software comes in all shapes and sizes to fit a variety of business sectors. Pareto charts, for example, combine bar charts with line graphs so companies can compare different problems or contributing factors to determine their frequency, cost, and significance. Charting software is often used in marketing, where a variety of bar charts and X-Y axis diagrams make it possible to display and examine competitor profiles, customer segmentation, and sales trends.

9. MindManager

No matter where you work, or what your problem-solving role looks like, MindManager is a problem solving software that will make your team more productive in figuring out why a process, plan, or project isn’t working the way it should.

Once you know why an obstruction, shortfall, or difficulty exists, you can use MindManager’s wide range of brainstorming and problem mapping diagrams to:

MindManager is the ultimate problem solving software .

Not only is it versatile enough to use as your go-to system for puzzling out all types of workplace problems, MindManager’s built-in forecasting tools, timeline charts, and warning indicators let you plan, implement, and monitor your solutions.

By allowing your group to work together more effectively to break down problems, uncover solutions, and rebuild processes and workflows, MindManager’s versatile collection of problem solving tools will help make everyone on your team a more efficient problem solver.

Lean Six Sigma is one powerful problem solving and efficiency auditing technique that can be accomplished using MindManager. Watch this webinar for a full overview of what Lean Six Sigma is, and how MindManager fits into the process.

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Lean Six Sigma is a powerful problem solving technique that helps find, and solve, even the most complex issues in project, workflows, and systems. Watch this webinar to learn the basics of Lean Six Sigma, examples of where and how to use it, and a primer on how to get started.

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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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A Complete Guide to know What is Problem Solving (Updated March 2023)

Everything happening in this world has its problems. This is because no system in this world has 100% efficiency. But this is not a big issue for the people who are prepared to deal with any kind of problem. The field that is heavily affected by the problems in the field of companies and organizations.

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This is because a lot of employees are working in different departments under the same name. The problem for one employee or one department can cause issues for others. This is why the employees are given special problem-solving training. Here we will discuss what is problem-solving and some effective steps involved.

What is problem solving?

Problem-solving isa process of solving any kind of problem. This process is acted upon in some steps. These steps start from identifying the problem and determining the cause of the problem. After the problem and its cause are identified, the next step is to select alternatives for the solution and implement the solutions.

All of these steps are collectively known as a problem-solving process.

The basic steps involved in problem-solving.

As the problem-solving process comprises different steps that collectively help in getting id of the problem. So, here we will have a detailed discussion about the steps that are involved in problem-solving.

Defining the problem.

Defining the problem means that you are diagnosing the situation. This helps take the further steps for solving the problem. This is not just as simple as defining the problem. Here you take effective measures to keep track of the situation of the problem. Some of the most effective and easy to implement ways of defining the problem are listed below.

·       Flowcharts of the process and the problem init.

·       Cause and effect diagram.

With the help of these steps, you can easily identify the root causes of the problem. However, for these ways of defining the problem, you must involve the factual information and then compare the expectations to reality. Apart from this, you also need to stay focused on the root cause of the problem as eradicating this will be your main objective here.

To create a successful deduction for problem-solving in this step, you will first need to review different sectors of your system. Then you will have to evaluate things on the base of how something will affect the system.

Generating the alternatives.

Once you have gone through the first step, the next step will be to get the solution for the problem. It is in our psyche that once we think of an idea or solution, then we keep on thinking that it will be effective. But in reality, this will not happen every time and you will waste a lot of time coming up with another effective solution.

So, here the best thing to do is to come up with more than more solutions at a time. For this, you can do the following things.

·       Take ideas from different employees.

·       Mold your original idea according to different aspects of the problem.

·       Think of other than one effective idea.

When you are going with a set of ideas for the backup, you will be very efficient in solving the problem. This is because if one idea fails, you can implement another one and this can be carried on until you have solved the problem.

Evaluating and selecting alternatives.

So, now you know that you have to come up with more than one idea, but how will you know if the ideas are effective or not. For this, you can easily evaluate the ideas that come up in your mind. This will help in filtering out only the best and the most effective ideas. Here is how this works.

·       Will this solution be able to solve the specific problem without causing other problems in the system?

·       Will all the people and stakeholders of the system accept the solution?

·       Is the solution that I have come up with possible and easy to implement?

·       Will the solution and the alternatives be in the constraints of the organization?

When you think of all the ideas and their alternatives, you will be very efficiently filtering out the ideas that do not seem to be working.

problem solving tool meaning

Implementing the solutions.

Now you are in the state where you have the ideas, the solutions, and the alternatives of these solutions. The only step left to get the problem solved is to implement the solution. This is also not a very simple step. Here are some things that you must include in this step to increase the efficiency of your solution.

·      Involving others.

One of the best things to do is to involve others in the implementation of your solution. This will not only reduce the stress that you will have to bear. But this will also add other innovative ideas that come in their minds. This can be very helpful in making the solution to the problem better.

·      Testing and expectations of the solution.

When you are implementing or you have implemented the solution, it is very important to keep constantly monitoring the solution and its working. For this, you can test the solutions’ working at different events. Testing the outcomes and comparing when with the expectations will also give you the idea of how well the solution is performing.

·      Feedback system.

When you have implemented the solution, the role that you will play in the future will be lower than the role of other employees. So, you must take feedback after sometime. The feedback system will tell you about the feelings of people about your solution and its working. This will also help in improving the solution.

Some important things to consider in each of the problem-solving steps.

Above in the article, we discussed the significance of each step involved in problem-solving. Here we will discuss some additional things that you must be aware of. This is because they will not only make your problem-solving experience better, but they will also make your problem-solving techniques more efficient.

Knowing your problem in a good way:

If you are thinking about what is problem solving and how important it is to define the problem. Then we will tell you here the importance of defining the problem and some of the best ways to implement it. It is a must for solving any problem that you must know the real cause and the root of the problem.

This is because the smaller problems can be identified and solved easily. But when we are dealing with the problems on the level of different organizations, then it is very important to get rid of the problem from the start. This is because if the problem is not fully identified, then it will never be truly eradicated.

And this will keep on damaging the company in several ways. For the problem identifying methods we mentioned above, the initiative for any of the methods can be taken for different tools. Some of the tools are the 5 W’s, the root cause analysis, and appreciation. This is also very important that you consider each of them carefully from different perspectives.

This is because the cause of the problem could be an unreasonable workload or lack of training but if unidentified, this can be extremely bad.

Knowing about the complexity of the problem.

While you are solving any problem, you must understand that every problem will not have the same scope and the time required for every problem will be different. This is because the complexity of each problem is different. There are a lot of tools and methods to know about the complexity of the problem. Some of them are listed below.

·       Affinity diagrams.

·       Swim Lane diagram.

·       System diagram.

·       Flow charts.

·       Bottleneck method.

After identifying different factors of the problem, you can implement any of these tools and this will tell you about the complexity of the problem. Sometimes a problem that seems to be a single problem is a collection of different smaller problems.

This is the point where the drill-down technique can be very helpful. It will easily and efficiently breakdown the problem into smaller parts.

Process of solving the problem.

So, there can be a case that the problem is very small, and it can easily be dealt with. But inmost of the cases, the problem is not that simple, and it is a collection of several complex problems related to different departments.

In this case, the head of the problem-solving team must take different members from different departments that will help in solving that problem using the tools, tricks methods, and tips we mentioned above.

With the increasing complexities in different organizations, many people are asking what is problem solving. If you are also uncertain about what is problem solving, then this will be the article that will tell you all about what is problem solving.

This is because it will not only tell you about some of the most effective techniques for solving different problems, but the tips, tools, and methods we mentioned here can also be very helpful for everyone in dealing with complex problems.

Want to discover more?

problem solving tool meaning

problem solving tool meaning

The Ultimate Guide to Problem Solving Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Problem Solving Tools

Recent studies claim that the average entrepreneur spends at least three hours every week solving work-related problems. Problem-solving is a common task for businesses in any industry. Most would agree that before an issue is resolved, the people involved need to be clear on what it’s about, why it’s happening, and the short and long-term solutions to fix it. Understanding the nature and cause of the problem is one of the most effective ways to figure out which course of action will help resolve it. Given that most problem-solving processes involve both inspiration and perspiration, a business is likely successful if it has a problem solving tool that facilitates collaboration, promotes creativity, and makes it simpler to implement the solution that the business comes up with.

Choosing, using, and implementing the problem-solving tools isn’t a straightforward approach. There are different nuances and topics that you need to know before using them effectively. That’s why we’ve created this guide to walk you through everything you need to know about problem-solving tools.

Problem Solving Tools and Diagrams

Planning is the quickest and most straightforward way to see where you stand in the situation and where you need to end up to resolve it. Having a visual problem map in place will let you plot and determine the most efficient route you need to take from a dysfunctional situation (Point A) to a practical solution (Point B). A problem mapping tool or diagram makes it easier to see the following:

A visual problem-solving process will help reinforce your understanding of the issue and is an excellent way for you and your team to convert abstract ideas into an actual, reconstructive plan.

With that said, here are six examples of common problem-mapping diagrams that you can try:

Fishbone Diagram

The fishbone diagram, also known as the Ishikawa diagram, identifies potential causes of a problem. The bones in the diagram represent different factors contributing to the issue at hand. This type of diagram is popular because it’s easy to use and helps you brainstorm various potential causes for a problem.

The following are some common uses for fishbone diagrams:

Flowcharts are one of the most common problem-solving tools and often map out a process or system. The main benefit of using a flowchart is that it helps you see the issue from start to finish, allowing you to optimize different parts of the process.

Here are some common uses for flowcharts:

Strategy Maps

A frequently used tool for company strategic planning, strategy maps also work well for problem-solving tasks. They allow you to see how the different aspects of your business (objectives, measures, initiatives, and activities) connect and help you determine which objectives need to be addressed to resolve a problem.

There are three main types of strategy maps:

Each type of map has its specific use, but all strategy maps share the same goal. And that is to help you see the big picture and understand how different elements in your business are interconnected.

Cause-and-Effect Diagram

The cause-and-effect diagram is a powerful problem-solving tool. This type of diagram is used to identify the root causes of a problem by mapping out all the possible factors contributing to it.

The following are some common uses for cause-and-effect diagrams:

Objective Map

An objective map represents your company’s objectives and how they connect visually. This type of map can be helpful for understanding which objectives need to be addressed to resolve a problem.

The following are some common uses for objective maps:

Balanced Scorecard Map

A balanced scorecard map is used to visually represent your company’s objectives and how they are measured. This type of map can be helpful for understanding which objectives need to be addressed to resolve a problem.

The following are some common uses for balanced scorecard maps:

No matter what type of problem you’re facing, there’s a diagram that can help you solve it. Therefore, by understanding the different types of diagrams and how to use them, you’ll need to prepare for any issue that comes your way.

Why DATAMYTE Offers Problem Solving Software Solutions

When it comes to solving problems, the team at DATAMYTE believes that data should be at the center of everything. That’s why we offer various software solutions designed to help you collect, analyze, and act on data.

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is a comprehensive productivity and performance-boosting tool, providing various features that will help you create effective problem-solving solutions.

With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you can:

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is just one of the many software solutions we offer at DATAMYTE . To learn more about our problem-solving software solutions, contact us today. We’ll be happy to discuss your specific needs and provide a customized solution that will help you resolve any issues you’re facing.

Problem-solving can be a difficult task, but you can come up with the perfect solution and overcome any obstacle with the right tools and data at your fingertips. Use this guide as a reference whenever you want to deal with an issue and come up with an effective solution.

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  1. Effective Problem-Solving Tools: Definition and Examples

    Problem-solving tools refer to strategies that can help determine the cause of a problem and identify the best solutions available. The first

  2. 9 essential problem solving tools: the ultimate guide

    1. Fishbone diagrams. Fishbone diagrams are a common problem solving tool so-named because, once complete, they resemble the skeleton of a fish.

  3. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

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

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  5. What Is Problem Solving?

    Tools like 5 Whys , Appreciation and Root Cause Analysis get you asking the right questions, and help you to work through the layers of a problem to uncover

  6. Problem Solving Tools and Techniques

    Problem Recognition · The 5W's (and the 5 WHY's) · SWOT Analysis · Mind Mapping · Brainstorming · The Fishbone Diagram (or Cause and Effect Diagram) · Affinity

  7. Problem solving

    Problem solving is the process of achieving a goal by overcoming obstacles, a frequent part of most activities. Problems in need of solutions range from

  8. 35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex

    Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges, ideating

  9. What is Problem Solving? Complete Guide (Updated March 2023)

    Problem-solving isa process of solving any kind of problem. This process is acted upon in some steps. These steps start from identifying the problem and

  10. The Ultimate Guide to Problem Solving Tools

    Problem Solving Tools and Diagrams · Fishbone Diagram · Flowcharts · Strategy Maps · Cause-and-Effect Diagram · Objective Map · Balanced Scorecard Map.