How do you develop effective solutions?

Kim Smiley



The goal of investigating issues is to develop and implement solutions that will reduce the risk of a similar problem in the future, but this can be easier said than done. Developing solutions is nuanced and the “best” solutions are going to be different for each investigation.

Unfortunately, identifying the most effective solutions isn’t a black and white issue. I can’t give you an easy step by step guide that ensures you will easily and consistently find the most ideal solution to every problem, there are a few things that can be useful to keep in mind.

Differentiate the solutions

Work to differentiate the solutions, but not the causes. Spend your time debating which are the most effective solutions, but don’t worry about categorizing causes. There are no major or minor causes, but rather just causes. An effective solution may control something that seems like a less important cause and still solve the problem sufficiently.

Document solution suggestions

Sometimes solution ideas get thrown out while you are still analyzing an issue. Record them as “possible solutions” on the Cause Map above the cause they control so that they are not forgotten, but try to save the debate about which solutions should be implemented until after the analysis is complete and the details of the problem are thoroughly understood.

Keep an open mind

Try to keep an open mind when brain storming solutions. Sometimes things that seem outrageous at first glance turn out to be effective solutions. Just because you’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

Quality over quantity

Not every cause needs a solution. In fact, more solutions are not necessarily better. The goal is to reduce the risk of a problem occurring to an acceptable level in the simplest, most cost-effective way possible. Don’t make things more complicated (or expensive) than they need to be.

Don't just focus on the "problem"

Sometimes an effective solution controls a cause that is not considered a “problem”. A solution can control any cause on the Cause Map. If that sounds strange to you, I recommend you read our case study on Repairing the Hubble or watch recording of the webinar that covers the same topic.

Mix of short-term and long-term solutions

Some solutions are short-term fixes and others may be longer term solutions. The solutions you choose to implement may include a combination of short-term fixes or workarounds until the longer term, more permanent solutions can be implemented. Just make sure you have a plan to track progress on the longer-term solutions and a plan to ensure that they will be implemented in a reasonable time frame. You can develop fantastic long term solutions, but they don’t do anybody any good if they are forgotten before they get implemented.

Watch out for unintended consequences

It’s a good idea to monitor solutions after they are implemented to ensure that they are having the desired effect. Keep an open mind and watch for negative unintended consequences. Even experienced problem solvers get surprised occasionally.

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