The four steps involved in problem solving are to define the problem, think of possible solutions, select one of these solutions and carry it out. These steps are useful as a general guide for those people in management and other leadership roles.

Use these steps to solve many potential problems.

Step 1: Define the problem

Using gathered information, such as that found in flowcharts and cause-and-effect diagrams, determine the causes of a problem in addition to its symptoms. This might involve identifying who or what is responsible and evaluating the tools at their disposal.

Step 2: Think of possible solutions

Brainstorm all possible solutions, with no evaluation yet of their individual advantages or disadvantages. Deciding too early on a course of action risks forgoing a more suitable solution that may have come up later in the brainstorming session.

Step 3: Select a solution

Consider the pros and cons of each possible solution. Take into account their potential to cause further problems and the likelihood of their being accepted within the organization for implementation. Involving others in the process will help them understand how a decision has been reached, making it a good way of minimizing any resistance to its implementation.

Step 4: Carry out the solution

Put the solution determined most suitable for the problem into action. This should be done reflexively by the leader, monitoring the actual effectiveness of the solution against initial expectations.