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What is analytical problem solving.
There are some very common misconceptions and myths about analytical problem solving. Most candidates simply skim over this phrase on consulting profiles without thinking about the meaning. This post will tell you what management consulting firms like McKinsey , Bain and BCG mean by analytical problem solving.
You would be surprised at how many people believe that analytical thinking is something that comes instinctively, letting you do data analysis and pinpoint relevant information to get the key takeaways from complex problems. The truth is, these analytical skills are, more often than not, hard skills that you acquire through years of problem solving and critical thinking. They’re problem-solving skills that help you go from coming up with easy solutions to coming up with creative solutions that go the extra mile.
This is important advice so it is worth reading carefully – we’ll also go over some analytical and problem solving skills examples to help you understand better.
What is analytical problem solving
To be an analytical thinker does not mean you must have a degree in science, engineering, finance, economics or any other quantitative subject. While some subjects, like those listed, imply you could be analytical in your thinking, not having quantitative background does not mean you cannot think analytically. Thousands of candidates with quantitative backgrounds fail to get offers from McKinsey, Bain and BCG every year. Therefore, having a quantitative background can be an advantage, but it does not guarantee analytical problem solving ability.
Being analytical refers to the way you think and not to the problem you solve. This is a very important statement. Lawyers, social scientists, linguists and historians can all be extremely analytical in their thinking. Yet, they are not solving quantitative problems. So the problem is not what determines if you are analytical, it is the way you solve the problem.
Good analyses are grounded in hypotheses. Can you develop hypotheses? It always surprises us how many people do not know what is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is not the problem. It is not a fact. It is not an opinion. It is a statement which captures the observed phenomenon as well as the likely cause of the phenomenon. Both must be present for it to be a hypothesis. A surprising number of candidates do not understand this.
Are you able to reason using only the facts provided? Analytical thinkers are not unemotional. No one is unemotional. However, analytical thinkers are able to separate their emotion from the situation and use the data provided to arrive at a conclusion. Analytical problem solving means reasoning using facts and logic. Past experience or opinions which cannot be substantiated are ignored.
Can you assemble data and facts to develop an argument or line of reasoning? Analytical thinkers can take pieces of information, compare them and decide what the information is saying. They can assemble the information to produce new insight into the problem rather than simply restating the information.
Analytical thinkers do not blurt out answers. Assuming your answer is even correct, the fact that you knew the answer means you did not need to analyse the facts. Therefore, your analytical problem solving skill could not be tested.
Logic has nothing to do with numbers. There is a misconception that if your reasoning lacks numbers then it must be incorrect. That is ridiculous. In many consulting case interviews, you will need to reason based on logical arguments and with very little numbers. Your line of reasoning is more important than your final answer.
Analytical thinkers can show you how they arrived at the answer. This should be obvious, right? After all, it is the foundation of the case interview method. If you followed a path of reasoning to arrive at an answer, you should be able to explain that path to someone. That is why the method is used. The interviewer is more interested in how you arrived at the answer than the answer you developed. How you arrived at the answer shows the strength of your analytical problem solving skill.
Logical thinkers apply MECE , even if they do not know it. I have some impressive friends in the legal profession. Watching them reason and debate is worth doing so. When you ask them how they arrived at an answer or why they eliminated an option, you realize they are applying the rules of MECE perfectly. Yet, they never heard of MECE. Reason and logic is not exclusive to management consulting but is it essential to management consulting.
You do not need to know anything about an income statement, balance sheet or cash-flow statement to develop analytical skills. I should not need to say this but I will say it anyway. The thought process is more important than the topic. You can learn accounting and financial concepts when you need them. It is not very difficult to do so.
Analytical and problem solving skills examples
Below we share with you some examples of analytical and problem solving skills and how analytical skills are being tested during consulting case interviews.
McKinsey case interview examples
- Complex McKinsey Interviewer led profitability case in Pharma (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
- Comprehensive McKinsey hypotheses based case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
- McKinsey cost-benefit approach complex profit case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
BCG case interview examples
- Comprehensive BCG interviewer led market entry case interview example (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
General case interview examples
- A comprehensive approach to brainstorming in case interviews (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
- Framework for a Bain, McKinsey, BCG acquisition case (by FIRMSconsulting.com)
Structured case interview analytical and problem solving skills development is needed
If you would like to get help with developing your analytical and problem solving skills, and fast track your case interview preparation, we welcome you to enroll into Premium membership .
There is nowhere else in the world where you can see real candidates trained by former partners from major consulting firms to help them develop analytical and problem solving skills. You will see the candidate’s progression through each step of the case interview preparation process, and how their analytical and problem solving skills are being developed. And you will see candidates receiving real offers from major firms such as Deloitte, McKinsey, or BCG.
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The Six Step Problem Solving Model
Problem solving models are used to address the many challenges that arise in the workplace. While many people regularly solve problems, there are a range of different approaches that can be used to find a solution.
Complex challenges for teams, working groups and boards etc., are usually solved more quickly by using a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach to problem solving.
Advantages of Six-Step Problem Solving
The Six-Step method provides a focused procedure for the problem solving (PS) group.
- It ensures consistency, as everyone understands the approach to be used.
- By using data, it helps eliminate bias and preconceptions, leading to greater objectivity.
- It helps to remove divisions and encourages collaborative working.
- It stops PS groups diverging into different problems.
- It also helps PS groups reach consensus
- It eliminates the confusion caused when people use different problem solving techniques on the same issue.
- It makes the decision making process easier.
- It provides a justifiable solution.
All six steps are followed in order – as a cycle, beginning with “1. Identify the Problem.” Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step.
The steps are repeatable. At any point the group can return to an earlier step, and proceed from there. For example, once the real problem is identified – using “2. Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem”, the group may return to the first step to redefine the problem.
The Six Steps
- Define the Problem
- Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem
- Develop Alternative Solutions
- Select a Solution
- Implement the Solution
- Evaluate the Outcome
The process is one of continuous improvement. The goal is not to solve but to evolve, adjusting the solution continually as new challenges emerge, through repeating the Six Step Process.
Step One: Define the Problem
Step One is about diagnosing the problem – the context, background and symptoms of the issue. Once the group has a clear grasp of what the problem is, they investigate the wider symptoms to discover the implications of the problem, who it affects, and how urgent/important it is to resolve the symptoms.
At this stage groups will use techniques such as:
As this step continues, the PS group will constantly revise the definition of the problem. As more symptoms are found, it clarifies what the real problem is.
Step Two: Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem
Once all the symptoms are found and the problem diagnosed and an initial definition agreed, the PS group begins to explore what has caused the problem. In this step the problem solving team will use tools such as:
- Fishbone diagrams
- Pareto analysis
- Affinity diagrams
These techniques help collate the information in a structured way, and focus in on the underlying causes of the problem. This is called the root cause.
At this stage, the group may return to step one to revise the definition of the problem.
Step Three: Develop Alternative Solutions
Analytical, creative problem solving is about creating a variety of solutions, not just one. Often the most obvious answer is not the most effective solution to the problem. The PS group focuses on:
- Finding as many solutions to the problem, no matter how outlandish they may seem.
- Looking at how each solution relates to the root cause and symptoms of the problem.
- Deciding if different solutions can be merged to give a better answer to the problem.
At this stage it is not about finding one solution, but eliminating the options that will prove less effective at dealing with both the symptoms and the root cause.
Step Four: Select a Solution
In the fourth step, groups evaluate all the selected, potential solutions, and narrow it down to one. This step applies two key questions.
- Which solution is most feasible?
- Which solution is favoured by those who will implement and use it?
Feasibility is ascertained by deciding if a solution:
- Can be implemented within an acceptable timeframe?
- Is cost effective, reliable and realistic?
- Will make resource usage more effective?
- Can adapt to conditions as they evolve and change?
- Its risks are manageable?
- Will benefit the organization/
Which solution is favoured?
Acceptance by the people who will use and implement the solution is key to success.
This is where the previous steps come into play. To users and implementers, a solution may seem too radical, complex or unrealistic. The previous two steps help justify the choices made by the PS group, and offer a series of different, viable solutions for users and implementers to discuss and select from.
Step Five: Implement the Solution
Once the solution has been chosen, initial project planning begins and establishes:
- The project manager.
- Who else needs to be involved to implement the solution.
- When the project will start.
- The key milestones
- What actions need to be taken before implementing the solution
- What actions need to be taken during the implementing the solution
- Why are these actions necessary?
The group may use tools, such as a Gantt chart, timeline or log frame. Between Steps Five and during Step Six the operational/technical implementation of the chosen solution takes place.
Step Six: Evaluate the Outcome
The project implementation now needs to be monitored by the group to ensure their recommendations are followed. Monitoring includes checking:
- Milestones are met
- Costs are contained
- Necessary work is completed
Many working groups skip Step Six as they believe that the project itself will cover the issues above, but this often results in the desired outcome not being achieved.
Effective groups designate feedback mechanisms to detect if the project is going off course. They also ensure the project is not introducing new problems. This step relies on:
- The collection of data
- Accurate, defined reporting mechanisms
- Regular updates from the Project Manager
- Challenging progress and actions when necessary
In Step Six, as the results of the project emerge, evaluation helps the group decide if they need to return to a previous step or continue with the implementation. Once the solution goes live, the PS group should continue to monitor the solutions progress, and be prepared to re-initiate the Six Step process when it is required.
Overall, the Six Step method is a simple and reliable way to solve a problem. Using a creative, analytical approach to problem solving is an intuitive and reliable process.
It helps keep groups on track, and enables a thorough investigation of the problem and solution search. It involves implementers and users, and finds a justifiable, monitorable solution based on data.
You can read more about the Six-Step Problem Solving Model in our free eBook ‘ Top 5 Problem Solving Tools ’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.
- The Six Step Problem Solving Model provides a shared, collaborative, and systematic approach to problem solving.
- Each step must be completed before moving on to the next step. However, the steps are repeatable. At any point the group can return to an earlier step, and proceed from there.
- The goal is not to solve but to evolve, adjusting the solution continually as new challenges emerge, through repeating the Six Step Process.
- Step 1) Define the Problem – Identify problems through problem formulation and questioning. The key is asking the right questions to discover root causes.
- Step 2) Determine the Root Cause – During this process, assumptions are uncovered and underlying problems are further revealed. Also, this is an opportunity to collect and analyze data.
- Step 3) Develop Alternative Solutions – Decisions are made within the group to determine the appropriate solution and process through creative selection.
- Step 4) Select a Solution – Once the group has formed solutions and alternatives to the problem(s), they need to explore the pros and cons of each option through forecasting consequences.
- Step 5) Implement the Solution – Develop an action plan to implement and execute the solution process.
- Step 6) Evaluate the Outcome – This final stage requires an evaluation of the outcomes and results of the solution process. Ask questions such as: Did the option answer the questions we were working on? Did this process address the findings that came out of the assumptions?
- This process helps keep groups on track, and enables a thorough investigation of the problem and solution search.
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University Human Resources
8-step problem solving process, organizational effectiveness.
121 University Services Building, Suite 50 Iowa City , IA 52242-1911 United States
Step 1: Define the Problem
- What is the problem?
- How did you discover the problem?
- When did the problem start and how long has this problem been going on?
- Is there enough data available to contain the problem and prevent it from getting passed to the next process step? If yes, contain the problem.
Step 2: Clarify the Problem
- What data is available or needed to help clarify, or fully understand the problem?
- Is it a top priority to resolve the problem at this point in time?
- Are additional resources required to clarify the problem? If yes, elevate the problem to your leader to help locate the right resources and form a team.
- Consider a Lean Event (Do-it, Burst, RPI, Project).
- ∙Ensure the problem is contained and does not get passed to the next process step.
Step 3: Define the Goals
- What is your end goal or desired future state?
- What will you accomplish if you fix this problem?
- What is the desired timeline for solving this problem?
Step 4: Identify Root Cause of the Problem
- Identify possible causes of the problem.
- Prioritize possible root causes of the problem.
- What information or data is there to validate the root cause?
Step 5: Develop Action Plan
- Generate a list of actions required to address the root cause and prevent problem from getting to others.
- Assign an owner and timeline to each action.
- Status actions to ensure completion.
Step 6: Execute Action Plan
- Implement action plan to address the root cause.
- Verify actions are completed.
Step 7: Evaluate the Results
- Monitor and Collect Data.
- Did you meet your goals defined in step 3? If not, repeate th 8-Step Process.
- Were there any unforeseen consequences?
- If problem is resolved, remove activities that were added previously to contain the problem.
Step 8: Continuously Improve
- Look for additional opportunities to implement solution.
- Ensure problem will not come back and communicate lessons learned.
- If needed, repeat the 8-Step Problem Solving Process to drive further improvements.
- About Problem Solving
- Related Topics
Problem Solving Resources
Case studies, problem solving related topics.
- Continuous Improvement
- Eight Disciplines (8D)
- Fishbone Diagram
- Nine Windows
- Shainin System™
- Total Quality Management (TQM)
- Quality Resources /
- Problem Solving
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.
- The problem-solving process
- Problem solving resources
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:
- Reviewing and documenting how processes currently work (i.e., who does what, with what information, using what tools, communicating with what organizations and individuals, in what time frame, using what format).
- Evaluating the possible impact of new tools and revised policies in the development of your "what should be" model.
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:
- A particular alternative will solve the problem without causing other unanticipated problems.
- All the individuals involved will accept the alternative.
- Implementation of the alternative is likely.
- The alternative fits within the organizational constraints.
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
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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Sometimes, it is not enough to just cope with the problems – they need to be solved.
Most people engage in problem solving every day. It occurs automatically for many of the small decisions that need to be made on a daily basis.
For example, when making a decision about whether to get up now or sleep in for an extra 10 minutes, the possible choices and the relative risks and benefits of obeying the alarm clock or sleeping later come automatically to mind.
Larger problems are addressed in a similar way. For example: “I have tasks that need to be done by the end of the week. How am I going to get them all done on time?”
After considering the possible strategies, 1 is chosen and implemented. If it proves to be ineffective, a different strategy is tried.
People who can define problems, consider options, make choices, and implement a plan have all the basic skills required for effective problem solving.
Sometimes following a step-by-step procedure for defining problems, generating solutions, and implementing solutions can make the process of problem solving seem less overwhelming.
Six step guide to help you solve problems
Step 1: identify and define the problem.
- State the problem as clearly as possible. For example: “I don’t have enough money to pay the bills.”
- Be specific about the behaviour, situation, timing, and circumstances that make it a problem. For example: “I need to pay the phone and gas bills, and I don’t have enough money to cover both this month.”
Step 2: Generate possible solutions
- List all the possible solutions; don’t worry about the quality of the solutions at this stage.
- Try to list at least 15 solutions, be creative and forget about the quality of the solution.
- If you allow yourself to be creative you may come up with some solutions that you would not otherwise have thought about.
Step 3: Evaluate alternatives
- The next step is to go through and eliminate less desirable or unreasonable solutions.
- Order the remaining solutions in order of preference.
- Evaluate the remaining solutions in terms of their advantages and disadvantages.
Step 4: Decide on a solution
- Specify who will take action.
- Specify how the solution will be implemented.
- Specify when the solution will be implemented. For example: tomorrow morning, phone the gas company and negotiate to pay the gas bill next month.
Step 5: Implement the solution
- Implement the solution as planned.
Step 6: Evaluate the outcome
- Evaluate how effective the solution was.
- Decide whether the existing plan needs to be revised, or whether a new plan is needed to better address the problem.
- If you are not pleased with the outcome, return to step 2 to select a new solution or revise the existing solution, and repeat the remaining steps.
Problem solving is something we do every day.
Some problems are small or easily solved - others are more complicated and can seem overwhelming.
One way of tackling problems is to use a specific and systematic problem solving procedure. If you’ve tried to solve certain problems without much success, try these steps out and see if they help.
Learning to solve problems effectively will help you to minimise the level of stress in your life and improve your overall sense of well-being.
Try it out and see.
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- Most people engage in problem solving daily.
- Sometimes following a step-by-step process to define problems, consider options and make choices can make problem solving less overwhelming.
- You can always talk to your doctor or mental health practitioner and ask for help.
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- Problem-Solving Model
Purpose of the Model
Philosophy of problem solving, fun: the bookworm, quick links.
This newsletter introduces the Problem Solving Model. This is a ten-step model to guide you (and your team) through a structured problem solving process. All too often, people jump from a problem to a solution. And it is often a solution that is short-lived or creates numerous other problems within the organization. The Problem Solving Model provides you a road map to continuous improvement.
As its name implies, this model is the road map to follow to solve problems. What makes something a problem?
a) When the process isn't doing what it is supposed to and people don't know why. b) When things keep going wrong no matter how hard everyone tries. c) When everyone believes that there is a problem to solve.
The first step in the model is to define the problem; it does not matter if it is late shipments, stock outs, computer downtime, typos, lost messages, or an agreed upon "red bead" that everyone keeps running into. Before you can solve the problem, you must truly understand what it is. This means brainstorming about the process, using a Pareto Diagram to prioritize potential obstacles and creating a process flow diagram of what is currently going on. After you have the problem defined, the model leads you through analyzing data you gather about the process, determining the root cause of the problem, and identifying possible solutions to the problem. Solutions to the problem will either be changes to the process which eliminate special causes of variation or changes which reduce common cause variation. After the best solution is implemented, the model leads the team to monitor the impact of its revisions to make sure that the problem is truly solved.
The problem-solving model, introduced below, incorporates an effective set of skills into a step-by-step process. The model combines the use of statistical tools, such as control charts and process flow diagrams, with group problem-solving skills, such as brainstorming and consensus decision-making. The statistical tools help us make data-based decisions at various points throughout the model. The group problem-solving skills help us draw on the benefits of working as a team.
Before we begin a discussion about the steps of the problem-solving model, we should talk a little about the philosophy that good problem solvers have about problems. Here are a number of ideas that are part of the philosophy.
Problem solving should occur at all levels of the organization. At every level, from top to bottom, problems occur. Everyone is an expert in the problems that occur in his or her own area and should address these problems. Problem solving is a part of everyone's job.
All problems should not be addressed with the same approach. There are some problems that are easily and suitably tackled alone. Not all decisions need to be made by teams nor do all problems need to be solved by groups. However, groups of people help to break mental sets (i.e., figuring out new ways of doing things). In addition, people are more committed to figuring out and implementing a solution to a problem if they are involved in the problem solving.
Problems are normal. Problems occur in every organization. In excellent companies people constantly work on solving problems as they occur. Problems are opportunities to make things better and should be viewed as such.
Be hard on the problem and soft on the people involved. When working on a problem, we should focus on solving the problem, not on whose fault the problem is. We should avoid personalizing the problem and blaming others.
People should address the problems in their own areas. Everyone has problems associated with their work area, and they should take ownership for trying to solve these problems instead of waiting for their supervisors or another team to tell them what to do.
Problem Solving Model
Step 1: define the problem..
Step 1 is a critical step; it determines the overall focus of the project. In this step, the team defines the problem as concretely and specifically as possible. Five SPC tools are helpful in defining the problem: brainstorming the problem's characteristics, creating an affinity diagram, using a Pareto chart, creating an initial Process Flow Diagram of the present process, and Control Chart data. The process flow diagram (PFD) will help the team identify "start to finish" how the present process normally works. Often the PFD can dramatically help define the problem. After the problem is well defined, Step 2 helps the team measure the extent of the problem.
End Product = A clear definition of the problem to be studied, including measurable evidence that the problem exists.
Step 2: Measure the Problem.
Baseline data are collected on the present process if they do not already exist. This permits measurement of the current level of performance so future gains can be subsequently measured. The team needs to make a decision on how to collect the present baseline data. In general, if data are collected daily, the time period should be a month. This way a standard control chart can be used. If data are collected weekly or once a month, baseline data will have only three or four points. Data collected less than once a month are of limited use; in such cases, historical data, if available, should be used. At this stage, the team must have measurable evidence that the problem exists. Opinions and anecdotes are a sound place to start, but eventually there needs to be concrete proof that there really is a problem.
End Product = A graph or chart with present baseline or historical data on how the process works; a collection of the present job instructions, job descriptions, and SOPs/JWIs (standard operating procedures and job work instructions).
Step 3: Set the Goal.
Goals provide vision and direction and help the team make choices and know which path to take. Be sure to state your goal(s) in terms that are measurable. This way, the team can evaluate its progress toward the goal. As the team imagines the goal, it will identify benefits of achieving the solution to the problem. This inspires a higher commitment and support from all.
End Product = A goal statement that includes the what, when, where, why, who and how of the ideal solved problem situation.
Step 4: Determine Root Causes.
In Step 4 the team studies why the process is working the way it is. If a control chart was developed in Step 2, determine whether the process is "in control" or "out of control." If the process is "out of control," the team should pinpoint the special causes and move to Step 5. If the process is "in control," the team will need to use tools such as cause and effect analysis (fishbones), scatter plots and experimental design formats to identify root causes currently in the system producing common cause variation.
End Product = A list of most probable root causes of the problem (common and special cause variation); selection by team of the primary root cause of the problem to be eliminated.
Step 5: Select Best Strategy.
The purpose of Step 5 is to select the strategy that best solves the problem. From the list of causes generated in Step 4, the team should brainstorm and strategically plan solution strategies. Fishbone diagrams and benchmarking can be helpful for this step. Then the team must reach consensus on the best possible strategy to solve the problem. This strategy should have the highest likelihood of success.
End Product = A well defined strategy to solve the problem is selected.
Step 6: Implement Strategy.
An Action Plan is developed by team. This includes who will do what by when to implement the solution. The team sees to it that the Action Plan developed is carried out and documented.
End Product = The Action Plan is implemented.
Step 7: Evaluate Results.
In Step 7 the team evaluates how effective the solution has been. Data must be collected to determine if the implemented strategy did, in fact, improve the process being studied. Performance must be clearly measured and evaluated. The team needs to monitor control chart data where appropriate and assess improvement; the process flow diagram should be checked for appropriate SOPs and JWIs. Additional feedback strategies such as histograms, process FMEAs, customer surveys and informal polls may also prove useful. What are the "customer" reactions (internal customer feedback)? What has produced measurable results? What hard data are available? Do people perceive an improvement? How have results matched customer needs? If the process did not improve, the team needs to discover if the wrong root cause(s) was identified or if the wrong solution was utilized. In either case, return to the steps above, beginning with Step 4. If the process improves, but the results are disappointing, there may be other root causes affecting the process. Again, return to Step 4 to further examine additional root causes. When the problem is solved (i.e. the "loop closed"), the team proceeds to Step 8.
End Product = The problem is solved; results of the improvement are measured.
Step 8: Implement Appropriate Changes in the Process.
Step 8 develops an ongoing process to assure that the gains stay in place for the long term. Sometimes a problem is solved and then later resurfaces. This happens when a solution is determined, but a system or process to keep the problem solved has not been successfully adopted. Permanent changes need to be implemented. This means revising the existing procedures. The new improved process will need to be tracked over time; the process must be checked frequently to maintain improvement. This also helps everyone to stay aware of opportunities to continuously improve the process where the problem occurred.
End Product = A permanent change in the process, Quality Improvement, and people "closest to the job" monitoring the change.
Step 9: Continuous Improvement.
This step is staying committed to continuous improvement in terms of this model - to remain actively alert to the ways the improved process can be made even better. This step is a conscious decision to allow others to innovate and to point out "red beads" in the process which the team has worked hard to improve. All involved, particularly those closest to the job, need to be encouraged to give constructive feedback and adjustments. Internal audits will monitor some processes to ensure effectiveness.
End Product = Commitment to continuous improvement.
Step 10: Celebrate.
This last step includes a recognition celebration and the disbanding of the team. Always take time for this maintenance function; people have achieved an important goal. They have earned this moment of recognition and closure.
End Product = Closure for the team members; disbanding of the team.
Each of the four volumes in the picture has the same number of pages and the width from the first to the last page of each volume is two inches. Each volume has two covers and each cover is one-sixth of an inch thick.
Our microscopic bookworm was hatched on page one of volume one. During his life he ate a straight hole across the bottom of the volumes. He ate all the way to the last page of volume four. The bookworm ate in a straight line, without zigzagging. The volumes are in English and are right-side up on a bookcase shelf.
Challenge: how many inches did the bookworm travel during his lifetime? ____________
We will give the answer in next month's newsletter.
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Dr. Bill McNeese BPI Consulting, LLC
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Analytical Problem Solving
Solving complex and ambiguous problems to deliver business performance improvement and growth
Consistent application of structured analytical techniques is essential to the success of professional services functions and roles in solving complex business problems. Our work across industry and with professional services firms has indicated an increasing demand for such skillsets, a view supported by industry research such as the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report. The report highlights critical thinking, structured problem solving and logical reasoning as being the most in-demand skills for businesses, governments and citizens over the next five years. Winning organisations will be those that recruit, develop and retain the best talent with these capabilities, in building relationships and transforming their businesses to deliver sustainable growth and profit improvement. These core skills are often not recognised or codified in internal teams, even those employing former consultants, so how do firms certify the rigour and quality of work across teams, geographies, clients and stakeholders?
Openside Group is the leading provider of training in analytical problem solving for professional services teams across consulting, business development, transformation and supply chain. Our Analytical Problem Solving (APS) programme provides the knowledge, skills, tools and behaviours, to solve unstructured and ambiguous business problems. Adopting a common language and approach, and applying it consistently, ensures: participants will generate new, creative solutions and opportunities for their organisations; better team innovation; new entrants are immediately productive; clients experience the same quality anywhere in the business.
Each programme is structured to meet the specific requirements of your business and it’s objectives, based on modules developed and refined over time by Openside. Techniques covered include how to formulate hypotheses, conduct issue analysis, data driven research and analytical thinking, draw logical conclusions, develop recommendations for action, create compelling reports and value propositions, and presentation of findings through storytelling. Pre-work is completed in advance of the programme to ensure that time is spent productively in the sessions and learning can be applied more quickly to live projects and business as usual. During the programme, participants will discover the core analytical thinking process in detail and can put the framework into action using ‘live’ examples. Participants will be able to apply critical thinking, to increase innovation and effectiveness in their client interactions. Leading to development of new, creative solutions and opportunities to deliver growth.
Advisors, Strategists and Policy Makers, Internal Consulting and Business Transformation teams, Account Managers and Client Support, Solution Architects, Supply Chain specialists, Business Development and Sales can all benefit from analytical problem solving, whatever their current level.
If you would like to find out how the Openside APS Programme can improve innovation, collaboration and productivity in your organisation, please contact us directly.
Why Analytical Problem Solving?
“The role of the internal advisor is complex and demands a specific skill set. A key skill is the ability to solve problems in an analytically sound and effective way while simultaneously balancing the needs of stakeholders with a range of perspectives and opinions. The Openside programme teaches the skills of dealing with multiple decision-makers who may not be aligned with a project objective and the analytical problem-solving process needed to deliver an excellent result.”
“The programme was a great learning experience that challenged my normal approach to framing problems/opportunities”
Internal Consulting Group Global Business Analyst
“A great week, I appreciated learning about useful tools and frameworks that I will be able to use in my daily work for more effective analysis and better framed problems.”
Global FMCG Business Intelligence
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This page intentionally left blank. Page 3. Analytical Problem-Solving Approach - FEMA. © Fred Nickols 2020.
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