Problem Solving Skills
"Problems are only opportunities in work clothes."
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The Simplex Model
This quiz is based on Min
model. This eight-step
process follows the
circular pattern shown
to the right, within
problems are solved
and new problems are
identified on an
Step1: Problem Finding
• What would our customers want us to improve? What
are they complaining about?
• What could they be doing better if we could help them?
• Who else could we help by using our core competences?
• What small problems do we have which could grow into
bigger ones? And where could failures arise in our
• What slows our work or makes it more difficult? What do
we often fail to achieve? Where do we have
• How can we improve quality?
• What are our competitors doing that we could do?
• What is frustrating and irritating to our team?
Step 2: Fact Finding
• Understand fully how different people perceive the
• Analyze data to see if the problem really exists.
• Explore the best ideas that your competitors have had.
• Understand customers' needs in more detail.
• Know what has already been tried.
• Understand fully any processes, components, services,
or technologies that you may want to use.
• Ensure that the benefits of solving the problem will be
worth the effort that you'll put into solving it.
Step 3: Problem Definition
• By the time you reach this stage, you should know roughly what the
problem is, and you should have a good understanding of the facts
relating to it.
• From here you need to identify the exact problem or problems that you
want to solve.
• It's important to solve a problem at the right level. If you ask questions
that are too broad, then you'll never have enough resources to answer
• Min Basadur, who created the Simplex process, suggests saying "Why?" to
broaden a question, and "What's stopping you?" to narrow a question.
• For example, if your problem is one of trees dying, ask "Why do I want to
keep trees healthy?" This might broaden the question to "How can I
maintain the quality of our environment?"
• A "What's stopping you?" question here could give the answer "I don't
know how to control the disease that is killing the tree."
• Big problems are normally made up of many smaller ones. This is the
stage at which you can use a technique like Drill Down to break the
problem down to its component parts. You can also use the
5 Whys Technique, Cause and Effect Analysis and Root Cause Analysis to
help get to the root of a problem.
Step 4: Idea Finding
• The next stage is to generate as many problem-
solving ideas as possible.
• Ways of doing this range from asking other
people for their opinions, through
programmed creativity tools and lateral thinking
techniques, to Brainstorming. You should also try
to look at the problem from other perspectives. A
technique like The Reframing Matrix can help
• Don't evaluate or criticize ideas during this stage.
Instead, just concentrate on generating ideas.
Remember, impractical ideas can often trigger
good ones! You can also use the Random Input
technique to help you think of some new ideas.
Step 5: Selection & Evaluation
Techniques to help you to do this include:
• Risk Analysis, which helps you explore where things
could go wrong.
• Impact Analysis, which gives you a framework for
exploring the full consequences of your decision.
• Force Field Analysis, which helps you explore the
pressures for and against change.
• Six Thinking Hats, which helps you explore your
decision using a range of valid decision-making styles.
• Use of NPVs and IRRs, which help you ensure that your
project is worth running from a financial perspective.
Step 6: Planning
• Action Plans help you manage simple projects – these
lay out the who, what, when, where, why and how of
delivering the work.
• For larger projects, it's worth using formal project
management techniques. By using these, you'll be able
to deliver your implementation project efficiently,
successfully, and within a sensible time frame.
• Where your implementation has an impact on several
people or groups of people, it's also worth thinking
about change management. Having an appreciation of
this will help you assure that people support your
project, rather than opposing it or cancelling it.
Step 7: Sell Idea
• Up to this stage you may have done all this
work on your own or with a small team. Now
you'll have to sell the idea to the people who
must support it. These may include your boss,
investors, or other stakeholders involved with
• In selling the project you'll have to address not
only its practicalities, but also things such
internal politics, hidden fear of change, and so
Step 8: Action
• This is where all the careful work and planning
pays off. Again, if you're implementing a large-
scale change or project, you might want to
brush up on your change management skills
to help ensure that the process is
• Once the action is firmly under way, return to
stage 1, Problem Finding, to continue
improving your idea. You can also use the
principles of Kaizen to work on continuous