Problem Solving

It would be a brave Project Manager indeed who predicted they’d never have any problems arise with the projects they are dealing with. So, on the basis that as sure as the IRS will want their dues from you … you can be equally sure that problems will arise and will have to be dealt with. Therefore, and on the basis that good preparation is part of the Project Managers role … what are you going to do when it comes to problem solving?

To every problem – there's a solution.

Rooting out the cause of a problem.

As the Project Manager to solve a problem you need to be able to separate the causes and symptoms of the problem, because you should only really concern yourself with the causes – letting others deal with the symptoms. Perhaps unsurprisingly this is called “root-cause analysis”. If that sounds complicated ****– well it can be, but only if you make it so. To succeed with root-cause analysis simply follow these steps:

  1. Produce a short statement defining the problem on a white-board.
  2. Ask your team members why the problem occurred.
  3. Write their answers on to the white-board, leaving plenty of space in between them.
  4. Ask each member of the team to express their views on why each of the statements you’ve just written down arose, writing them down under the relevant statement.
  5. Now, with your team, look at what’s been written down and find the issues that keep being repeated.
  6. You should now have identified the root-causes of the problem(s) and, with your team, can set about targeting the changes needed to solve them.

A note of caution.

Dealing with a root-cause can be costly in terms of both time and money and can certainly be more costly than dealing with a symptom. So, as the Project Management you will need to decide if dealing with the root-cause is too costly to contemplate. Needless to say, you’ll know that dealing with the root-cause is the correct thing to do – but sometimes a pragmatic/expedient decision can over-rule the strictly proper one.