Structured Problem Solving

Structured Problem Solving


Wikipedia term:

Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to problems. […]

Problems can also be classified into two different types (ill-defined and well-defined) from which appropriate solutions are to be made. Ill-defined problems are those that do not have clear goals, solution paths, or expected solution. Well-defined problems have specific goals, clearly defined solution paths, and clear expected solutions. These problems also allow for more initial planning than ill-defined problems.

Furthermore, Wikipedia lists Problem-solving strategies and Problem-solving methodologies.

Rapid Problem Resolution (RPR)

The most standard approach essentially follows the steps (rapid problem resolution RPR):

  1. Discover: problem definition
  2. Investigate: problem analysis / Identify root cause / Glass box model
  3. Fix: application of solution concepts / Confirm root cause addressed

You can also do it in seven steps.

Problem Solving and Continuous Improvements

As RPR has limitations e.g. deals only with a single symptom at a time, typically the solving is embedded in a continuous improvement cycle:

DMAIC or Plan-do-check-act (or the more detailed 8D) that applies to ‘well defined problems’:

PDCA (Wikipedia)

Wicked problems

For ill-defined or wicked problems creative problem solving (CPS) methods are needed: Creative problem solving implies the application of creativity techniques e.g. divergent thinking. The approach looks like:
  • Objective Finding (OF)Identify Goal, Wish or Challenge
  • Fact Finding (FF)Gather Data
  • Problem Finding (PF) – Clarify the Problem
  • Idea Finding (IF) – Generate Ideas
  • Solution Finding (SF)Select and Strengthen Solutions
  • Acceptance Finding (AF)Plan for Action

Further reading


A common opinion how to solve problems is

If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

– Albert Einstein

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