Approaching Ill-Structured Problems
So, how do you go about solving an ill-structured problem?
The best way to approach an ill-structured problem is to begin by gathering information. Here are some ideas of what to look for.
Define the problem.
- Whose problem is it (individual, group, or situation) and why?
- How do key people, those most involved, define the problem and how do they feel about it? Try to separate fact from opinion by distinguishing what people say from what they actually do.
List why the issue is a problem.
- Is there a gap between the actual situation and what is desirable?
- Are any standards violated?
- What would happen if the problem remained unsolved?
- Are there unintended consequences that could result from taking action to solve the problem?
List what will happen when the problem is solved.
- What are the ideal outcomes?
- What are the actual outcomes? For example, has productivity improved; are people more satisfied?
- Does the statement of the problem define the actual cause of the problem, or is it just one of the symptoms?
Solving Ill-Structured Problems
To start figuring out how to solve an ill-structured problem, here are some steps you may want to follow. Consider the information you have gathered through your investigation as you determine what the real problem is and how best to solve it.
- Determine the real problem.
- State the real problem.
- Identify alternative perspectives.
- Determine constraints.
- Gather information.
- Generate possible solutions.
- Choose the best solution.
- Plan the steps for implementing the solution.
- Adapt the solution.
- Monitor the solution and make adjustments as needed.