Exploring the Problem
| Problems | Strategies | Psychology | Ownership | Guidelines | Explore | Define | Solve | Action | Review |

Problems are personal and always just a matter of interpretation.  One man's problem is another man's opportunity.   Seen in the positive light, problems are opportunities in disguise.   Problems offer us a chance to initiate some changes in our life that we may not have been motivated to consider before.  Solving problems means that our future will be different than it is today...hopefully, it will be better.

Most problems are not born with an obvious solution, so a solution must be found by searching for it.   It helps to know where to look.   With a little detective work, most problems can be solved just by determining what has caused them.   Problems are the result of conditions that are undesirable to the problem-owner.   To attain a solution or a desired outcome, the problem-owner must investigate to discover the source of these causal conditions.  The solution involved either 1) adding the prerequisite input conditions that must be present to achieve the desired outcome or 2) removing some or all of the input conditions that should not be present to achieve the outcome desired and/or 3) some combination of adding and some removing. 

There are specific reasons (causes) as to why a desired outcome is not present.   If all the prerequisite input conditions necessary for a particular outcome are present, then that outcome and that outcome alone would be present.   To get a different outcome, a different combination of input conditions is necessary.  The fact that an undesirable condition is present means that all the input factors for this undesirable condition are present.  To achieve a desired outcome, the right combination of input conditions must be present.  Once these key input conditions are defined, the solution is to provide them.   The obvious conclusion to the foregoing is that since the desired outcome is not present, then the wrong prerequisite input conditions are present. 

  The role of exploration is to find out the following information:
1. What input conditions are necessary to produce the desired outcomes?
2. Which of these required inputs are missing? Then, find a way to make them available.
3.  What inputs are present that are not needed?  Then, find a way to get rid of as many as possible. 
4. What assumption might I be making that may not be true and/or over constrain the solution?  

In regard to the issue of erroneous assumptions, a good problem-solver always objectively lists his assumptions so they can be monitored and verified.  Assumptions are necessary anytime the solution will take place in the future, because the future is not completely certain.  Assumptions fill in the voids for missing information.  Humans are assumption-making creatures.  We are constantly assuming, because we never have all the facts and insights we need to reach a certain conclusion.   The future is just to uncertain and humans are just to limited in their capability to know all that needs to be known.   Thus, assumptions are a necessarily of both decision-making and problem-solving.   

Still, one must take care to make their assumptions carefully and keep them overt.     Ideally, the success of the solution is not entirely dependent on any one assumption.  The more assumptions and the more their accuracy affect the success of the solution, the higher the risk of the solution.   The best solutions are robust to the adverse outcome to an assumption.  In other words, the solution will still solve the problem even if some of the assumptions do not hold.   The impact of assumptions on the implementation plan will only slightly increases cost and schedule.  The solution still corrects the deviation or undesirable situation. 

Thus, when the decision-maker needs information to solve a problem, and it is not readily available, then rather than getting stuck, the decision-maker should substitute their best guess or most likely answer to the missing information.   Ultimately, every assumption must be watched and verified.   During the implementation plan, reality will either verify or contradict these assumptions.   Sometimes, the first steps in the implementation plan is to reduce the risk of the solution by gathering more information to verify the assumptions.  But it is always the hidden, false assumption that is the one that causes all the problems.