Calculated Problem Solving | Developing the Solution

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Define the Problem. Develop Solutions. Execute the Plan.

By Dr. Shawn A. Noble 

This is part three of a three-part series on problem solving

As stated before, most organizations do not employ any structured process to handle organizational problems. Although employees are quite capable of putting out fires, they quickly get tired of addressing the same issues and morale suffers.

Instead of only dealing with the fires, it is possible to prevent the fire from ever happening by using the following three-pronged approach.

Defining the Problem

Albert Einstein has been attributed to making the following quote related to having only 1 hour to solve a serious problem, where he said, “I Would Spend 55 Minutes Defining the Problem and then Five Minutes Solving It.” Although we are unlikely to have Einsteinian ability to either define a problem or solve it, the point about the importance of defining the problem is well stated.

Most of the time organizations only have a fuzzy understanding of the actual problem, which often leads to focusing on the wrong problem to solve. This is because it takes times and discipline to surface all the facts and identify those which are the main contributors to the problem.

Until you clearly understand what you are solving, you should not move forward with developing a solution.
How much time do you typically spend dissecting problems within your organization? Do you use a structured approach to deeply understand why things are happening or just get the basics of the problem and then try to solve it?

Developing Solutions

Solving problems should be fun, providing that you have created the right atmosphere to allow for creative solutions. All too often, brainstorming sessions are conducted in methodical step-wise fashion in a stuffy boardroom. Employees’ solutions are quickly shot down (from verbal and non-verbal cues) if they suggest anything radical or outside the norm. Sadly, the usual conclusion is that brainstorming does not yield any worthwhile results and things either quickly return to normal or in many cases get worse.

Do you create the right atmosphere when conducting brainstorming? Do you look for multiple solutions to the problem or just stop at one and try to make it work?

Creating and Executing a Plan

The third step is all about establishing accountability, actions, and timelines. I’ve witnessed too many times where an organization will invest $100K+ to fly in several high-priced executives who spend a couple days working with a consultant to define the problem and create solutions. However, when it comes time to establish the execution plan, those same executives are rushing off to catch their flight or to catch-up on the emails they missed. The hard truth is that without this plan none of the work will get done.

From the start of the meeting, there needs to be an expectation that the meeting will end with a plan that states what tasks need to get done, when will the tasks be done, insights on how the tasks will get done and who owns each task. In addition, there needs to be a governance structure established that helps keep things on track.

Do you typically end your major meetings with a clear plan for execution? Do you have a structure in place that helps to guide accountability for the work to be done?

In close, ask yourself if you are spending more time than you would like extinguishing fires. If so, talk to The Noble Consulting Group about how you can deploy a calculated problem-solving approach to help you get back to doing what you love.

For more information concerning services for law firms by Dr. Shawn Noble please go to or contact Law Firm Coach uses the concept of ideation or creative thinking to develop common sense law firms that withstand the test of time.