The articles in this section of Mind Tools therefore focus on helping you make a success of the first of these steps – defining the problem.
A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is.
When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier.
So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand, because there's a web of interrelated issues.
For example, consider this problem statement: "We have to find a way of disciplining of people who do substandard work." This doesn't allow you the opportunity of discovering the real reasons for under-performance.
The CATWOE checklist provides a powerful reminder to look at many elements that may contribute to the problem, and to expand your thinking around it.However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training, or an unreasonable workload.help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on.The Drill Down technique will help you split your problem into smaller parts, each of which can then be solved appropriately.The four-step approach to solving problems that we mentioned at the beginning of this article will serve you well in many situations.The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work.At this stage, it's also important to ensure that you look at the issue from a variety of perspectives.If you commit yourself too early, you can end up with a problem statement that's really a solution instead.However, for a more comprehensive process, you can use Simplex, Appreciative Inquiry or Soft Systems Methodology (SSM).These provide detailed steps that you can use to solve a problem effectively.