Have a Problem – This should be the easy part ; ) . There are always problems to solve and some that you probably don’t even know about.
Document Your Problem and the Subsequent Steps Below – document your thoughts in a word document and organize them in a spreadsheet. If possible use an application/s to improve your efficiency and organization – you can either buy one or create your own.
Make the Problem More Specific – often times you’ll see that you or others have a general vague problem and that is a problem in itself. If there is a overarching general problem break it down into smaller problems that you can solve incrementally.
Define a Resolution Goal – (which is usually the opposite of the problem in most simple scenarios). If you don’t have a vision of what the right thing should be you may get stuck in the problem step and mentally go in circles with it until you make the problem more specific and define a goal.
Define Resolution Criteria – Criteria means solution constraints – what are you willing to accept and not willing to accept with the problem resolution. For example, if I am hungry I could eat a cheese burger but if I am also wanting to be healthy a salad may be higher in solution rank order than a cheese burger. Another way to think about criteria are sub or adjacent resolution goals. Although there could be many solutions there are some constraints that you may not accept such as budget, opportunity cost (what I have to give up for this resolution?), social ramifications for the resolution, or long term ramifications of the story (your problem could be solved right now but it could cause more problems for you in the future).
Gather and Document Data – List out what you know and don’t know. For what you don’t know write questions. Start by asking the questions to yourself to answer the questions, then research the internet, ask family, ask friends, then follow up with experts (the order of operations may change depending on the type of problem as some problems may require specific expertise).
Identify Root Cause – There are many levels of root cause. What you are looking for is causality – what were the steps that led this problem to happen. Often times for a problem you could be looking for a first or second level root cause. However, when you think hard enough you may find that there is a deeper root cause that caused the surface level root cause you identified. Therefore, having a routine of introspection will allow you to find deeper root causes and improve your life and/or business in a significant way.
Brainstorm Solution Options – Once you have identified the root cause ask yourself ‘how can I solve this?’. Your inner voice will answer so just record your thoughts. The goal here is to just come up with a list of options and after you’ve listed enough options evaluate them. Don’t try to do it all at once because you will limit your options by stopping the brainstorming process.
Document Solution Pros and Cons – Once you are satisfied with the number of options you have listed write out the benefits and the draw backs relative to your goals and criteria. Also, write the opportunity costs for each solution. These should be quantitative and qualitative. You can also include others in this analysis to get their feedback. However, I would recommend that you start with yourself first as someone else may not necessarily have your best interest in mind or may not be able to separate what you want versus what he or she wants.
Rank Order Solutions Based on Analysis – Based on your analysis number each solution option 1 to x. Your number 1 option should be the one you pick to resolve your problem.