Problem Solving – A Simple, Effective Process
Problem Solving – A Simple, Effective Process
WINNERS separate themselves from losers by using a simple, effective Problem Solving process.
A Problem is anything that stands between you and what you want to be, have, or do.
High-performing people and organizations don’t need a complicated problem solving process. The most successful strategies in life are simple and problem solving heads the list. Most problem solving processes are so complicated that the process becomes yet another problem.
When Apollo 13 lost power on the outbound trip to the moon, the capsule suffered a disastrous explosion. What was it that ultimately saved a very complex space capsule and the lives of three Astronauts? Was it a complicated process? Was it an intricate series of steps? No! It was common sense based on simplicity. The guys at the space center figured out what was available, gathered it up, poured it out on a table and put their efforts into creating the simplest solution they could that would effectively solve the problem. And solve the problem they did! The capsule and Astronauts arrived home cold and worn out, but safe.
On July 4th, 1982, a 38-foot long ocean racing boat sank in 160 feet of water a mile up the coast from the tourist town of Avalon on Catalina Island. At the time, I was in the marine salvage business in Avalon. When I and my team of two other divers found the wreck, it was upside down and perched on the lip of a steep underwater canyon. I realized then that if we were to successfully conquer the problems involved in raising the wreck – and cash a huge check – we needed a simple, effective process. Simple, as in Forrest Gump simple. Effective like MacGyver on the old TV series by that name.
The process I developed is based on the letters of the word SALVAGE. I’ve used it in business ventures over the past 25 years and found it to be a simple, yet effective process to solve Problems.
I believe in this process so much that I wrote a 90 page book about it.
Step 1. Separate the symptom from the problem. If you can’t identify the real problem, you don’t have a chance to solve it. We were all taught that the proper use of a fire extinguisher is to point it at the base of the fire, not the flames. The fire is the source of the flames and if you extinguish the source (Problem), you will eliminate the flames (Symptom).
One method to do this was created by Sakichi Toyoda and used by Toyota Motor Company. He suggested that asking WHY five times would find the underlying cause of the problem. His method certainly is a good start, but What? How?, and When? need to be sprinkled in.
Salvage Master’s Rule – Ignore the smoke – Find the fire.
Step 2. Arrive at your desired outcome – What do you want the solution to look like? With business problems, you don’t want to merely return to where you were, you want to solution to move your business forward. This is where you shoot for the moon because your solution is never going to be better than what you visualized.
Salvage Master’s Rule – If you don’t know what you want – you can’t have it.
Step 3. Line up your team – Who are the best players to solve this particular problem? Look for people who have the ability and desire to help. Don’t just grab the closest person or the one with the most time on their hands.
Once you’ve picked your team, learn what motivates them and give it to them. Four of the most powerful motivators are challenge, excitement, notoriety, and personal satisfaction. You’ll notice money didn’t make the cut. It’s a powerful motivator but has a short shelf life.
Salvage Master’s Rule – Pick the best team you can find, motivate them, and let them prove you were right about them.
Step 4. Visualize the problem in parts and gather the facts – As a team, take a close look at the whole problem and break it down into workable parts and gather the facts about each part. I promise that the solution to every problem lies in the facts. Use the facts to create the steps you’ll use to actually solve the problem.
Salvage Master’s Rule – The Tortoise wins every time. Small methodical bites are best.
Step 5. Adopt a plan of action – Put the steps you’ve created into a logical sequence. Ask which step needs to be first, which needs to be second, and so on until you reach your destination, which is problem solved. Have the team run through the steps at least three times, adjusting as you go, until everyone is satisfied that the plan will obtain the desired outcome.
Salvage Master’s Rule – Draw a map – If you don’t write it down, you lose!
Step 6. Go! Implement your plan – Alexander the Great said, “It is only through action that we conquer our fears and exercise control of out destiny”. He was right. The best plan you can create will not work until you take action.
I hope it’s not lost on you that the GO step is nearly the last. You have determined the real problem, decided how you want the solution to look, put together your team, broken the problem into parts, and created an action plan. Everything you have done up until now has been preparation to go into action. So go! Take action. Do something. No plan will ever be perfect. That’s where the next step takes over.
Salvage Master’s Rule – Half-hearted attempts are doomed to fail. If you’re not all in, don’t try.
Step 7. Evaluate, Adjust, and Persist - Let’s say you’re cooking along through the steps in your plan of action and you hit a snag. The step you’ve just taken does not fit into the next. Here’s where you take the last and most important step. You and the team evaluate the situation, adjust the next step, and persist.
Salvage Master’s Rule – You win or lose according to your willingness and ability to Evaluate, Adjust, and Persist.
You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to solve problems. You can succeed beyond your wildest dreams through this simple, effective process.
© 2011 Salvage Master Bob Walker