• Creating Environments Conducive to Social Interaction
  • Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making
  • Developing a Positive Climate with Trust and Respect
  • Developing Self-Esteem, Confidence, Resiliency, and Mindset
  • Developing Ability to Consider Different Perspectives
  • Developing Tools and Techniques Useful in Social Problem-Solving
  • Leadership Problem-Solving Model
  • A Problem-Solving Model for Improving Student Achievement

Six-Step Problem-Solving Model

  • Hurson’s Productive Thinking Model: Solving Problems Creatively
  • The Power of Storytelling and Play
  • Creative Documentation & Assessment
  • Materials for Use in Creating “Third Party” Solution Scenarios
  • Resources for Connecting Schools to Communities
  • Resources for Enabling Students

weblink:  http://www.yale.edu/bestpractices/resources/docs/problemsolvingmodel.pdf

This six-step model is designed for the workplace, but is easily adaptable to other settings such as schools and families.  It emphasizes the cyclical , continuous nature of the problem-solving process .  The model describes in detail the following steps:

Step One:   Define the Problem

Step Two:   Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem

Step Three:   Develop Alternative Solutions

Step Four:   Select a Solution

Step Five:   Implement the Solution

Step Six:   Evaluate the Outcome

Floor Tape Store

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

  • The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process

6 stage model of problem solving

  • Select the problem to be analyzed
  • Clearly define the problem and establish aprecise problem statement
  • Set a measurable goal for the problem solving effort
  • Establish a process for coordinating with and gaining approval of leadership
  • Identify the processes that impact the problem and select one
  • List the steps in the process as it currently exists
  • Map the Process
  • Validate the map of the process
  • Identify potential cause of the problem
  • Collect and analyze data related to the problem
  • Verify or revise the original problem statement
  • Identify root causes of the problem
  • Collect additional data if needed to verify root causes
  • Establish criteria for selecting a solution
  • Generate potential solutions that will address the root causes of the problem
  • Select a solution
  • Gain approval and supporter the chosen solution
  • Plan the solution
  • Implement the chosen solution on a trial or pilot basis
  • If the Problem Solving Process is being used in conjunction with the Continuous Improvement Process, return to Step 6 of the Continuous Improvement Process
  • If the Problem Solving Process is being used as a standalone, continue to Step 5
  • Gather data on the solution
  • Analyze the data on the solution
  • Achive the desired results?
  • If YES, go to Step 6. 
  • If NO, go back to Step 1.
  • Identify systemic changes and training needs for full implementation
  • Adopt the solution
  • Plan ongoing monitoring of the solution
  • Continue to look for incremental improvements to refine the solution
  • Look for another improvement opportunity

Subscribe via Email


Tim, This is a good guideline for any practitioner to follow. I wish I had this a few weeks ago. A client liked a training deck I prepared but didn't want to confuse anyone with terms like Deming Cycle and such. The final version of PDCA was a 6 step process improvement method that's very similar to yours. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Chris

Thank you for you brief and easy to understand on each step problem solving above.

Wonderful. Well Explained. Thank you for sharing

I mapped this to PDCA and observed that the first 3 steps correspond to P, the next 3 to D, C and A respectively. This Show that indeed planning is the most important step in PDCA.

Subscribe via Email

Search A Lean Journey

Twitter updates.

  • Facebook Updates
  • Advertising

Subscribe Now

6 stage model of problem solving

Get new posts by email:

A Lean Journey LinkedIn Group

Recent comments, search this blog, top 10 posts.

  • Celebrating my 500th Blog Post
  • Visual Management Board
  • Guest Post: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...
  • What Do We Mean By True North?
  • Five Lean Games Every Company Can Benefit From
  • 10 Characteristics of a Good Measure and 7 Pitfalls to Avoid
  • DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes
  • The 8 Common Wastes in an Office That Cause Downtime
  • Lean Leadership: Lessons from Abe Lincoln

Blog Archive

  • ►  April (5)
  • ►  March (13)
  • ►  February (12)
  • ►  January (14)
  • ►  December (11)
  • ►  November (13)
  • ►  October (12)
  • ►  September (13)
  • ►  August (13)
  • ►  July (8)
  • ►  June (13)
  • ►  May (14)
  • ►  April (12)
  • ►  February (13)
  • ►  January (13)
  • ►  December (12)
  • ►  October (13)
  • ►  August (14)
  • ►  July (13)
  • ►  May (13)
  • ►  April (13)
  • ►  August (10)
  • ►  March (14)
  • ►  July (14)
  • ►  December (10)
  • ►  June (12)
  • ►  April (9)
  • ►  December (13)
  • ►  October (14)
  • ►  September (12)
  • ►  May (12)
  • ►  January (12)
  • ►  October (15)
  • ►  December (14)
  • ►  November (12)
  • ►  January (15)
  • ►  August (17)
  • ►  July (19)
  • ►  June (16)
  • ►  May (19)
  • ►  April (18)
  • ►  March (17)
  • ►  February (16)
  • ►  January (18)
  • ►  December (19)
  • ►  November (18)
  • ►  October (20)
  • ►  September (18)
  • ►  August (22)
  • ►  July (23)
  • ►  June (21)
  • Lean Roundup #36 – May, 2012
  • Meet-up: Beyond Lean's Matt Wrye
  • Meet-up: 6 Questions to Learn of Those in Our Comm...
  • Memorial Day is a Time for Remembrance
  • Lean Quote: Change Leaders Create Constancy of Pur...
  • Celebrating A Lean Journey's Third Year With Some ...
  • Quality Improvement in Government?
  • Webinar: Checking Your Lean Progress
  • Lean Quote: Ability, Motivation, Attitude
  • Daily Lean Tips Edition #31
  • Leveraging Quality to Achieve Your Business Goals
  • Lean Quote: Continuous Improvement is About Findin...
  • Management Improvement Blog Carnival #166
  • Top 3 “Old School” Apps for Lean
  • Creating A Quality Focused Culture
  • Lean Quote: Opportunity is Dressed as Hard Work
  • Kanban Flow - A Free, Fast, & Flexible Kanban Tool
  • Demonstrating Commitment Is A Combination of Suppo...
  • ►  April (17)
  • ►  February (18)
  • ►  January (20)
  • ►  December (18)
  • ►  November (19)
  • ►  October (17)
  • ►  September (22)
  • ►  July (20)
  • ►  June (20)
  • ►  May (21)
  • ►  April (19)
  • ►  March (20)
  • ►  February (17)
  • ►  January (17)
  • ►  December (20)
  • ►  November (15)
  • ►  August (18)
  • ►  July (17)
  • ►  April (14)
  • ►  November (17)
  • ►  July (15)
  • ►  June (9)
  • ►  May (5)
  • A Lean Journey (79)
  • A Year Ago (8)
  • ASQ's Influential Voices (40)
  • Book Review (63)
  • Change Management (53)
  • Communication (11)
  • Conference (10)
  • Culture (38)
  • Customer Focus (2)
  • Daily Management (1)
  • Development/Training (13)
  • Empowerment (19)
  • Engagement (37)
  • Exercises/Games (8)
  • Facilitation (2)
  • Feedback (3)
  • Guest Post (167)
  • In the News (69)
  • Innovation (2)
  • L.A.M.E. (5)
  • Leadership (218)
  • Lean and Green (12)
  • Lean Basics (109)
  • Lean Definition (24)
  • Lean Fun (10)
  • Lean in Practice (55)
  • Lean Management (152)
  • Lean Office (14)
  • Lean Products (4)
  • Lean Quote (719)
  • Lean Resources (44)
  • Lean Roundup (197)
  • Lean Thinking (5)
  • Lean Tips (231)
  • Meet-up (25)
  • Podcast (5)
  • Problem Solving (21)
  • Product Review (2)
  • Project Management (6)
  • Quality (48)
  • Respect For People (57)
  • Sharing Best Practices (129)
  • Soft Skills (3)
  • Strategy (6)
  • Supply Chain (1)
  • Talking Lean (1)
  • Teamwork (42)
  • Visual Factory (31)
  • Webinar (23)

Lean Blogs I Like

  • 2 Lean Principles
  • 5S Supply Blog
  • Avoiding The Corporate Death Spiral
  • Be More Careful!
  • Curious Cat
  • Daily Kaizen
  • Evolving Excellence
  • Gemba Panta Rei
  • Gemba Tales
  • Got Boondoggle?
  • Gotta Go Lean Blog
  • Improve With Me
  • Jamie Flinchbaugh
  • Kaizen Notebook
  • Lean Builder
  • Lean Communications
  • Lean For Everyone
  • Lean Healthcare Exchange
  • Lean Homebuilding
  • Lean Insider
  • Lean Is Good
  • Lean Leadership
  • Lean Pathways
  • Lean Printing
  • Lean Reflections
  • Lean Simulations
  • Lean Six Sigma Academy
  • LeanCor Blog
  • Learn Lean Manufacturing
  • Learning About Lean
  • Old Lean Dude Blog
  • The A3 Post
  • The Lean Edge
  • The Lean Library
  • The Lean Logistics Blog
  • The Lean Thinker
  • The Lean Way Consulting
  • TimeBack Blog
  • To The Gemba
  • Training Within Industry
  • Visual Management Blog

Other Sites I like

  • AME's Target Magazine
  • AnythingLean.com
  • Art of Lean
  • Bosch Rexroth Lean Production
  • CIRAS - Theory of Constraints
  • Chasing The Rabbit
  • Corporate Event Management
  • Creative Safety Supply
  • Creative Safety Supply 5S Resource Page
  • Fuss & O'Neill SPL
  • Gemba Academy
  • Grassroots Innovation
  • IndustryWeek
  • Lean Enterprise Institute
  • Leanovations
  • Learn More McGraw-Hill
  • MEP University
  • Manufacturers BlogNotions
  • Manufacturing Business Technology
  • Manufacturing Pulse
  • Modern Machine Shop
  • Running A Hospital
  • Superfactory
  • The 5S Store
  • Unclutterer
  • Visual Workplace
  • Xtreme Lean Consulting
  • catalyst for change
  • freeleansite.com

wibiya widget

A lean journey blog - copyright © 2009-2024 tim mcmahon - all rights reserved.


How it works

For Business

Join Mind Tools

Article • 4 min read

The Problem-Solving Process

Looking at the basic problem-solving process to help keep you on the right track.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself.

We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity. Some, such as the resolution of a serious complaint, require a significant amount of time, thought and investigation. Others, such as a printer running out of paper, are so quickly resolved they barely register as a problem at all.

6 stage model of problem solving

Despite the everyday occurrence of problems, many people lack confidence when it comes to solving them, and as a result may chose to stay with the status quo rather than tackle the issue. Broken down into steps, however, the problem-solving process is very simple. While there are many tools and techniques available to help us solve problems, the outline process remains the same.

The main stages of problem-solving are outlined below, though not all are required for every problem that needs to be solved.

6 stage model of problem solving

1. Define the Problem

Clarify the problem before trying to solve it. A common mistake with problem-solving is to react to what the problem appears to be, rather than what it actually is. Write down a simple statement of the problem, and then underline the key words. Be certain there are no hidden assumptions in the key words you have underlined. One way of doing this is to use a synonym to replace the key words. For example, ‘We need to encourage higher productivity ’ might become ‘We need to promote superior output ’ which has a different meaning.

2. Analyze the Problem

Ask yourself, and others, the following questions.

  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • When is it occurring?
  • Why is it happening?

Be careful not to jump to ‘who is causing the problem?’. When stressed and faced with a problem it is all too easy to assign blame. This, however, can cause negative feeling and does not help to solve the problem. As an example, if an employee is underperforming, the root of the problem might lie in a number of areas, such as lack of training, workplace bullying or management style. To assign immediate blame to the employee would not therefore resolve the underlying issue.

Once the answers to the where, when and why have been determined, the following questions should also be asked:

  • Where can further information be found?
  • Is this information correct, up-to-date and unbiased?
  • What does this information mean in terms of the available options?

3. Generate Potential Solutions

When generating potential solutions it can be a good idea to have a mixture of ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’ thinkers. In other words, some people who think laterally and some who think logically. This provides a balance in terms of generating the widest possible variety of solutions while also being realistic about what can be achieved. There are many tools and techniques which can help produce solutions, including thinking about the problem from a number of different perspectives, and brainstorming, where a team or individual write as many possibilities as they can think of to encourage lateral thinking and generate a broad range of potential solutions.

4. Select Best Solution

When selecting the best solution, consider:

  • Is this a long-term solution, or a ‘quick fix’?
  • Is the solution achievable in terms of available resources and time?
  • Are there any risks associated with the chosen solution?
  • Could the solution, in itself, lead to other problems?

This stage in particular demonstrates why problem-solving and decision-making are so closely related.

5. Take Action

In order to implement the chosen solution effectively, consider the following:

  • What will the situation look like when the problem is resolved?
  • What needs to be done to implement the solution? Are there systems or processes that need to be adjusted?
  • What will be the success indicators?
  • What are the timescales for the implementation? Does the scale of the problem/implementation require a project plan?
  • Who is responsible?

Once the answers to all the above questions are written down, they can form the basis of an action plan.

6. Monitor and Review

One of the most important factors in successful problem-solving is continual observation and feedback. Use the success indicators in the action plan to monitor progress on a regular basis. Is everything as expected? Is everything on schedule? Keep an eye on priorities and timelines to prevent them from slipping.

If the indicators are not being met, or if timescales are slipping, consider what can be done. Was the plan realistic? If so, are sufficient resources being made available? Are these resources targeting the correct part of the plan? Or does the plan need to be amended? Regular review and discussion of the action plan is important so small adjustments can be made on a regular basis to help keep everything on track.

Once all the indicators have been met and the problem has been resolved, consider what steps can now be taken to prevent this type of problem recurring? It may be that the chosen solution already prevents a recurrence, however if an interim or partial solution has been chosen it is important not to lose momentum.

Problems, by their very nature, will not always fit neatly into a structured problem-solving process. This process, therefore, is designed as a framework which can be adapted to individual needs and nature.

Join Mind Tools and get access to exclusive content.

This resource is only available to Mind Tools members.

Already a member? Please Login here

6 stage model of problem solving

Team Management

Learn the key aspects of managing a team, from building and developing your team, to working with different types of teams, and troubleshooting common problems.

Sign-up to our newsletter

Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.

Subscribe now

Business Skills

Personal Development

Leadership and Management

Member Extras

Most Popular

Newest Releases

Article amtbj63

SWOT Analysis

Article a4wo118


Mind Tools Store

About Mind Tools Content

Discover something new today

How to stop procrastinating.

Overcoming the Habit of Delaying Important Tasks

What Is Time Management?

Working Smarter to Enhance Productivity

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?

Boosting Your People Skills


What's Your Leadership Style?

Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead

Recommended for you

Energizing yourself infographic.

Infographic Transcript


Business Operations and Process Management

Strategy Tools

Customer Service

Business Ethics and Values

Handling Information and Data

Project Management

Knowledge Management

Self-Development and Goal Setting

Time Management

Presentation Skills

Learning Skills

Career Skills

Communication Skills

Negotiation, Persuasion and Influence

Working With Others

Difficult Conversations

Creativity Tools


Work-Life Balance

Stress Management and Wellbeing

Coaching and Mentoring

Change Management

Managing Conflict

Delegation and Empowerment

Performance Management

Leadership Skills

Developing Your Team

Talent Management

Problem Solving

Decision Making

Member Podcast

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Guided Meditations
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2023 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

Overview of the Problem-Solving Mental Process

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

6 stage model of problem solving

Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.

6 stage model of problem solving

  • Identify the Problem
  • Define the Problem
  • Form a Strategy
  • Organize Information
  • Allocate Resources
  • Monitor Progress
  • Evaluate the Results

Frequently Asked Questions

Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue.

The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything they can about the issue and then using factual knowledge to come up with a solution. In other instances, creativity and insight are the best options.

It is not necessary to follow problem-solving steps sequentially, It is common to skip steps or even go back through steps multiple times until the desired solution is reached.

In order to correctly solve a problem, it is often important to follow a series of steps. Researchers sometimes refer to this as the problem-solving cycle. While this cycle is portrayed sequentially, people rarely follow a rigid series of steps to find a solution.

The following steps include developing strategies and organizing knowledge.

1. Identifying the Problem

While it may seem like an obvious step, identifying the problem is not always as simple as it sounds. In some cases, people might mistakenly identify the wrong source of a problem, which will make attempts to solve it inefficient or even useless.

Some strategies that you might use to figure out the source of a problem include :

  • Asking questions about the problem
  • Breaking the problem down into smaller pieces
  • Looking at the problem from different perspectives
  • Conducting research to figure out what relationships exist between different variables

2. Defining the Problem

After the problem has been identified, it is important to fully define the problem so that it can be solved. You can define a problem by operationally defining each aspect of the problem and setting goals for what aspects of the problem you will address

At this point, you should focus on figuring out which aspects of the problems are facts and which are opinions. State the problem clearly and identify the scope of the solution.

3. Forming a Strategy

After the problem has been identified, it is time to start brainstorming potential solutions. This step usually involves generating as many ideas as possible without judging their quality. Once several possibilities have been generated, they can be evaluated and narrowed down.

The next step is to develop a strategy to solve the problem. The approach used will vary depending upon the situation and the individual's unique preferences. Common problem-solving strategies include heuristics and algorithms.

  • Heuristics are mental shortcuts that are often based on solutions that have worked in the past. They can work well if the problem is similar to something you have encountered before and are often the best choice if you need a fast solution.
  • Algorithms are step-by-step strategies that are guaranteed to produce a correct result. While this approach is great for accuracy, it can also consume time and resources.

Heuristics are often best used when time is of the essence, while algorithms are a better choice when a decision needs to be as accurate as possible.

4. Organizing Information

Before coming up with a solution, you need to first organize the available information. What do you know about the problem? What do you not know? The more information that is available the better prepared you will be to come up with an accurate solution.

When approaching a problem, it is important to make sure that you have all the data you need. Making a decision without adequate information can lead to biased or inaccurate results.

5. Allocating Resources

Of course, we don't always have unlimited money, time, and other resources to solve a problem. Before you begin to solve a problem, you need to determine how high priority it is.

If it is an important problem, it is probably worth allocating more resources to solving it. If, however, it is a fairly unimportant problem, then you do not want to spend too much of your available resources on coming up with a solution.

At this stage, it is important to consider all of the factors that might affect the problem at hand. This includes looking at the available resources, deadlines that need to be met, and any possible risks involved in each solution. After careful evaluation, a decision can be made about which solution to pursue.

6. Monitoring Progress

After selecting a problem-solving strategy, it is time to put the plan into action and see if it works. This step might involve trying out different solutions to see which one is the most effective.

It is also important to monitor the situation after implementing a solution to ensure that the problem has been solved and that no new problems have arisen as a result of the proposed solution.

Effective problem-solvers tend to monitor their progress as they work towards a solution. If they are not making good progress toward reaching their goal, they will reevaluate their approach or look for new strategies .

7. Evaluating the Results

After a solution has been reached, it is important to evaluate the results to determine if it is the best possible solution to the problem. This evaluation might be immediate, such as checking the results of a math problem to ensure the answer is correct, or it can be delayed, such as evaluating the success of a therapy program after several months of treatment.

Once a problem has been solved, it is important to take some time to reflect on the process that was used and evaluate the results. This will help you to improve your problem-solving skills and become more efficient at solving future problems.

A Word From Verywell​

It is important to remember that there are many different problem-solving processes with different steps, and this is just one example. Problem-solving in real-world situations requires a great deal of resourcefulness, flexibility, resilience, and continuous interaction with the environment.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can stop dwelling in a negative mindset.

Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

You can become a better problem solving by:

  • Practicing brainstorming and coming up with multiple potential solutions to problems
  • Being open-minded and considering all possible options before making a decision
  • Breaking down problems into smaller, more manageable pieces
  • Asking for help when needed
  • Researching different problem-solving techniques and trying out new ones
  • Learning from mistakes and using them as opportunities to grow

It's important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about what's going on. Try to see things from their perspective as well as your own. Work together to find a resolution that works for both of you. Be willing to compromise and accept that there may not be a perfect solution.

Take breaks if things are getting too heated, and come back to the problem when you feel calm and collected. Don't try to fix every problem on your own—consider asking a therapist or counselor for help and insight.

If you've tried everything and there doesn't seem to be a way to fix the problem, you may have to learn to accept it. This can be difficult, but try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and remember that every situation is temporary. Don't dwell on what's going wrong—instead, think about what's going right. Find support by talking to friends or family. Seek professional help if you're having trouble coping.

Davidson JE, Sternberg RJ, editors.  The Psychology of Problem Solving .  Cambridge University Press; 2003. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511615771

Sarathy V. Real world problem-solving .  Front Hum Neurosci . 2018;12:261. Published 2018 Jun 26. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00261

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

  • The Art of Effective Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • Learn Lean Sigma
  • Problem Solving

Whether we realise it or not, problem solving skills are an important part of our daily lives. From resolving a minor annoyance at home to tackling complex business challenges at work, our ability to solve problems has a significant impact on our success and happiness. However, not everyone is naturally gifted at problem-solving, and even those who are can always improve their skills. In this blog post, we will go over the art of effective problem-solving step by step.

You will learn how to define a problem, gather information, assess alternatives, and implement a solution, all while honing your critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Whether you’re a seasoned problem solver or just getting started, this guide will arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to face any challenge with confidence. So let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Problem solving methodologies.

Individuals and organisations can use a variety of problem-solving methodologies to address complex challenges. 8D and A3 problem solving techniques are two popular methodologies in the Lean Six Sigma framework.

Methodology of 8D (Eight Discipline) Problem Solving:

The 8D problem solving methodology is a systematic, team-based approach to problem solving. It is a method that guides a team through eight distinct steps to solve a problem in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

The 8D process consists of the following steps:

  • Form a team: Assemble a group of people who have the necessary expertise to work on the problem.
  • Define the issue: Clearly identify and define the problem, including the root cause and the customer impact.
  • Create a temporary containment plan: Put in place a plan to lessen the impact of the problem until a permanent solution can be found.
  • Identify the root cause: To identify the underlying causes of the problem, use root cause analysis techniques such as Fishbone diagrams and Pareto charts.
  • Create and test long-term corrective actions: Create and test a long-term solution to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  • Implement and validate the permanent solution: Implement and validate the permanent solution’s effectiveness.
  • Prevent recurrence: Put in place measures to keep the problem from recurring.
  • Recognize and reward the team: Recognize and reward the team for its efforts.

Download the 8D Problem Solving Template

A3 Problem Solving Method:

The A3 problem solving technique is a visual, team-based problem-solving approach that is frequently used in Lean Six Sigma projects. The A3 report is a one-page document that clearly and concisely outlines the problem, root cause analysis, and proposed solution.

The A3 problem-solving procedure consists of the following steps:

  • Determine the issue: Define the issue clearly, including its impact on the customer.
  • Perform root cause analysis: Identify the underlying causes of the problem using root cause analysis techniques.
  • Create and implement a solution: Create and implement a solution that addresses the problem’s root cause.
  • Monitor and improve the solution: Keep an eye on the solution’s effectiveness and make any necessary changes.

Subsequently, in the Lean Six Sigma framework, the 8D and A3 problem solving methodologies are two popular approaches to problem solving. Both methodologies provide a structured, team-based problem-solving approach that guides individuals through a comprehensive and systematic process of identifying, analysing, and resolving problems in an effective and efficient manner.

Step 1 – Define the Problem

The definition of the problem is the first step in effective problem solving. This may appear to be a simple task, but it is actually quite difficult. This is because problems are frequently complex and multi-layered, making it easy to confuse symptoms with the underlying cause. To avoid this pitfall, it is critical to thoroughly understand the problem.

To begin, ask yourself some clarifying questions:

  • What exactly is the issue?
  • What are the problem’s symptoms or consequences?
  • Who or what is impacted by the issue?
  • When and where does the issue arise?

Answering these questions will assist you in determining the scope of the problem. However, simply describing the problem is not always sufficient; you must also identify the root cause. The root cause is the underlying cause of the problem and is usually the key to resolving it permanently.

Try asking “why” questions to find the root cause:

  • What causes the problem?
  • Why does it continue?
  • Why does it have the effects that it does?

By repeatedly asking “ why ,” you’ll eventually get to the bottom of the problem. This is an important step in the problem-solving process because it ensures that you’re dealing with the root cause rather than just the symptoms.

Once you have a firm grasp on the issue, it is time to divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. This makes tackling the problem easier and reduces the risk of becoming overwhelmed. For example, if you’re attempting to solve a complex business problem, you might divide it into smaller components like market research, product development, and sales strategies.

To summarise step 1, defining the problem is an important first step in effective problem-solving. You will be able to identify the root cause and break it down into manageable parts if you take the time to thoroughly understand the problem. This will prepare you for the next step in the problem-solving process, which is gathering information and brainstorming ideas.

Step 2 – Gather Information and Brainstorm Ideas

Gathering information and brainstorming ideas is the next step in effective problem solving. This entails researching the problem and relevant information, collaborating with others, and coming up with a variety of potential solutions. This increases your chances of finding the best solution to the problem.

Begin by researching the problem and relevant information. This could include reading articles, conducting surveys, or consulting with experts. The goal is to collect as much information as possible in order to better understand the problem and possible solutions.

Next, work with others to gather a variety of perspectives. Brainstorming with others can be an excellent way to come up with new and creative ideas. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas when working in a group, and make an effort to actively listen to what others have to say. Be open to new and unconventional ideas and resist the urge to dismiss them too quickly.

Finally, use brainstorming to generate a wide range of potential solutions. This is the place where you can let your imagination run wild. At this stage, don’t worry about the feasibility or practicality of the solutions; instead, focus on generating as many ideas as possible. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous or unusual it may appear. This can be done individually or in groups.

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the next step in the problem-solving process, which we’ll go over in greater detail in the following section.

Step 3 – Evaluate Options and Choose the Best Solution

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential solutions, it’s time to assess them and select the best one. This is the third step in effective problem solving, and it entails weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, considering their feasibility and practicability, and selecting the solution that is most likely to solve the problem effectively.

To begin, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. This will assist you in determining the potential outcomes of each solution and deciding which is the best option. For example, a quick and easy solution may not be the most effective in the long run, whereas a more complex and time-consuming solution may be more effective in solving the problem in the long run.

Consider each solution’s feasibility and practicability. Consider the following:

  • Can the solution be implemented within the available resources, time, and budget?
  • What are the possible barriers to implementing the solution?
  • Is the solution feasible in today’s political, economic, and social environment?

You’ll be able to tell which solutions are likely to succeed and which aren’t by assessing their feasibility and practicability.

Finally, choose the solution that is most likely to effectively solve the problem. This solution should be based on the criteria you’ve established, such as the advantages and disadvantages of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and your overall goals.

It is critical to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to problems. What is effective for one person or situation may not be effective for another. This is why it is critical to consider a wide range of solutions and evaluate each one based on its ability to effectively solve the problem.

Step 4 – Implement and Monitor the Solution

When you’ve decided on the best solution, it’s time to put it into action. The fourth and final step in effective problem solving is to put the solution into action, monitor its progress, and make any necessary adjustments.

To begin, implement the solution. This may entail delegating tasks, developing a strategy, and allocating resources. Ascertain that everyone involved understands their role and responsibilities in the solution’s implementation.

Next, keep an eye on the solution’s progress. This may entail scheduling regular check-ins, tracking metrics, and soliciting feedback from others. You will be able to identify any potential roadblocks and make any necessary adjustments in a timely manner if you monitor the progress of the solution.

Finally, make any necessary modifications to the solution. This could entail changing the solution, altering the plan of action, or delegating different tasks. Be willing to make changes if they will improve the solution or help it solve the problem more effectively.

It’s important to remember that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to start from scratch. This is especially true if the initial solution does not effectively solve the problem. In these situations, it’s critical to be adaptable and flexible and to keep trying new solutions until you find the one that works best.

To summarise, effective problem solving is a critical skill that can assist individuals and organisations in overcoming challenges and achieving their objectives. Effective problem solving consists of four key steps: defining the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating alternatives and selecting the best solution, and implementing the solution.

You can increase your chances of success in problem solving by following these steps and considering factors such as the pros and cons of each solution, their feasibility and practicability, and making any necessary adjustments. Furthermore, keep in mind that problem solving is an iterative process, and there may be times when you need to go back to the beginning and restart. Maintain your adaptability and try new solutions until you find the one that works best for you.

  • Novick, L.R. and Bassok, M., 2005.  Problem Solving . Cambridge University Press.

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

Free Lean Six Sigma Templates

Improve your Lean Six Sigma projects with our free templates. They're designed to make implementation and management easier, helping you achieve better results.

5S Floor Marking Best Practices

In lean manufacturing, the 5S System is a foundational tool, involving the steps: Sort, Set…

How to Measure the ROI of Continuous Improvement Initiatives

When it comes to business, knowing the value you’re getting for your money is crucial,…

8D Problem-Solving: Common Mistakes to Avoid

In today’s competitive business landscape, effective problem-solving is the cornerstone of organizational success. The 8D…

The Evolution of 8D Problem-Solving: From Basics to Excellence

In a world where efficiency and effectiveness are more than just buzzwords, the need for…

8D: Tools and Techniques

Are you grappling with recurring problems in your organization and searching for a structured way…

How to Select the Right Lean Six Sigma Projects: A Comprehensive Guide

Going on a Lean Six Sigma journey is an invigorating experience filled with opportunities for…

How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast , Simon London speaks with Charles Conn, CEO of venture-capital firm Oxford Sciences Innovation, and McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin about the complexities of different problem-solving strategies.

Podcast transcript

Simon London: Hello, and welcome to this episode of the McKinsey Podcast , with me, Simon London. What’s the number-one skill you need to succeed professionally? Salesmanship, perhaps? Or a facility with statistics? Or maybe the ability to communicate crisply and clearly? Many would argue that at the very top of the list comes problem solving: that is, the ability to think through and come up with an optimal course of action to address any complex challenge—in business, in public policy, or indeed in life.

Looked at this way, it’s no surprise that McKinsey takes problem solving very seriously, testing for it during the recruiting process and then honing it, in McKinsey consultants, through immersion in a structured seven-step method. To discuss the art of problem solving, I sat down in California with McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin and also with Charles Conn. Charles is a former McKinsey partner, entrepreneur, executive, and coauthor of the book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything [John Wiley & Sons, 2018].

Charles and Hugo, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being here.

Hugo Sarrazin: Our pleasure.

Charles Conn: It’s terrific to be here.

Simon London: Problem solving is a really interesting piece of terminology. It could mean so many different things. I have a son who’s a teenage climber. They talk about solving problems. Climbing is problem solving. Charles, when you talk about problem solving, what are you talking about?

Charles Conn: For me, problem solving is the answer to the question “What should I do?” It’s interesting when there’s uncertainty and complexity, and when it’s meaningful because there are consequences. Your son’s climbing is a perfect example. There are consequences, and it’s complicated, and there’s uncertainty—can he make that grab? I think we can apply that same frame almost at any level. You can think about questions like “What town would I like to live in?” or “Should I put solar panels on my roof?”

You might think that’s a funny thing to apply problem solving to, but in my mind it’s not fundamentally different from business problem solving, which answers the question “What should my strategy be?” Or problem solving at the policy level: “How do we combat climate change?” “Should I support the local school bond?” I think these are all part and parcel of the same type of question, “What should I do?”

I’m a big fan of structured problem solving. By following steps, we can more clearly understand what problem it is we’re solving, what are the components of the problem that we’re solving, which components are the most important ones for us to pay attention to, which analytic techniques we should apply to those, and how we can synthesize what we’ve learned back into a compelling story. That’s all it is, at its heart.

I think sometimes when people think about seven steps, they assume that there’s a rigidity to this. That’s not it at all. It’s actually to give you the scope for creativity, which often doesn’t exist when your problem solving is muddled.

Simon London: You were just talking about the seven-step process. That’s what’s written down in the book, but it’s a very McKinsey process as well. Without getting too deep into the weeds, let’s go through the steps, one by one. You were just talking about problem definition as being a particularly important thing to get right first. That’s the first step. Hugo, tell us about that.

Hugo Sarrazin: It is surprising how often people jump past this step and make a bunch of assumptions. The most powerful thing is to step back and ask the basic questions—“What are we trying to solve? What are the constraints that exist? What are the dependencies?” Let’s make those explicit and really push the thinking and defining. At McKinsey, we spend an enormous amount of time in writing that little statement, and the statement, if you’re a logic purist, is great. You debate. “Is it an ‘or’? Is it an ‘and’? What’s the action verb?” Because all these specific words help you get to the heart of what matters.

Want to subscribe to The McKinsey Podcast ?

Simon London: So this is a concise problem statement.

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah. It’s not like “Can we grow in Japan?” That’s interesting, but it is “What, specifically, are we trying to uncover in the growth of a product in Japan? Or a segment in Japan? Or a channel in Japan?” When you spend an enormous amount of time, in the first meeting of the different stakeholders, debating this and having different people put forward what they think the problem definition is, you realize that people have completely different views of why they’re here. That, to me, is the most important step.

Charles Conn: I would agree with that. For me, the problem context is critical. When we understand “What are the forces acting upon your decision maker? How quickly is the answer needed? With what precision is the answer needed? Are there areas that are off limits or areas where we would particularly like to find our solution? Is the decision maker open to exploring other areas?” then you not only become more efficient, and move toward what we call the critical path in problem solving, but you also make it so much more likely that you’re not going to waste your time or your decision maker’s time.

How often do especially bright young people run off with half of the idea about what the problem is and start collecting data and start building models—only to discover that they’ve really gone off half-cocked.

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah.

Charles Conn: And in the wrong direction.

Simon London: OK. So step one—and there is a real art and a structure to it—is define the problem. Step two, Charles?

Charles Conn: My favorite step is step two, which is to use logic trees to disaggregate the problem. Every problem we’re solving has some complexity and some uncertainty in it. The only way that we can really get our team working on the problem is to take the problem apart into logical pieces.

What we find, of course, is that the way to disaggregate the problem often gives you an insight into the answer to the problem quite quickly. I love to do two or three different cuts at it, each one giving a bit of a different insight into what might be going wrong. By doing sensible disaggregations, using logic trees, we can figure out which parts of the problem we should be looking at, and we can assign those different parts to team members.

Simon London: What’s a good example of a logic tree on a sort of ratable problem?

Charles Conn: Maybe the easiest one is the classic profit tree. Almost in every business that I would take a look at, I would start with a profit or return-on-assets tree. In its simplest form, you have the components of revenue, which are price and quantity, and the components of cost, which are cost and quantity. Each of those can be broken out. Cost can be broken into variable cost and fixed cost. The components of price can be broken into what your pricing scheme is. That simple tree often provides insight into what’s going on in a business or what the difference is between that business and the competitors.

If we add the leg, which is “What’s the asset base or investment element?”—so profit divided by assets—then we can ask the question “Is the business using its investments sensibly?” whether that’s in stores or in manufacturing or in transportation assets. I hope we can see just how simple this is, even though we’re describing it in words.

When I went to work with Gordon Moore at the Moore Foundation, the problem that he asked us to look at was “How can we save Pacific salmon?” Now, that sounds like an impossible question, but it was amenable to precisely the same type of disaggregation and allowed us to organize what became a 15-year effort to improve the likelihood of good outcomes for Pacific salmon.

Simon London: Now, is there a danger that your logic tree can be impossibly large? This, I think, brings us onto the third step in the process, which is that you have to prioritize.

Charles Conn: Absolutely. The third step, which we also emphasize, along with good problem definition, is rigorous prioritization—we ask the questions “How important is this lever or this branch of the tree in the overall outcome that we seek to achieve? How much can I move that lever?” Obviously, we try and focus our efforts on ones that have a big impact on the problem and the ones that we have the ability to change. With salmon, ocean conditions turned out to be a big lever, but not one that we could adjust. We focused our attention on fish habitats and fish-harvesting practices, which were big levers that we could affect.

People spend a lot of time arguing about branches that are either not important or that none of us can change. We see it in the public square. When we deal with questions at the policy level—“Should you support the death penalty?” “How do we affect climate change?” “How can we uncover the causes and address homelessness?”—it’s even more important that we’re focusing on levers that are big and movable.

Would you like to learn more about our Strategy & Corporate Finance Practice ?

Simon London: Let’s move swiftly on to step four. You’ve defined your problem, you disaggregate it, you prioritize where you want to analyze—what you want to really look at hard. Then you got to the work plan. Now, what does that mean in practice?

Hugo Sarrazin: Depending on what you’ve prioritized, there are many things you could do. It could be breaking the work among the team members so that people have a clear piece of the work to do. It could be defining the specific analyses that need to get done and executed, and being clear on time lines. There’s always a level-one answer, there’s a level-two answer, there’s a level-three answer. Without being too flippant, I can solve any problem during a good dinner with wine. It won’t have a whole lot of backing.

Simon London: Not going to have a lot of depth to it.

Hugo Sarrazin: No, but it may be useful as a starting point. If the stakes are not that high, that could be OK. If it’s really high stakes, you may need level three and have the whole model validated in three different ways. You need to find a work plan that reflects the level of precision, the time frame you have, and the stakeholders you need to bring along in the exercise.

Charles Conn: I love the way you’ve described that, because, again, some people think of problem solving as a linear thing, but of course what’s critical is that it’s iterative. As you say, you can solve the problem in one day or even one hour.

Charles Conn: We encourage our teams everywhere to do that. We call it the one-day answer or the one-hour answer. In work planning, we’re always iterating. Every time you see a 50-page work plan that stretches out to three months, you know it’s wrong. It will be outmoded very quickly by that learning process that you described. Iterative problem solving is a critical part of this. Sometimes, people think work planning sounds dull, but it isn’t. It’s how we know what’s expected of us and when we need to deliver it and how we’re progressing toward the answer. It’s also the place where we can deal with biases. Bias is a feature of every human decision-making process. If we design our team interactions intelligently, we can avoid the worst sort of biases.

Simon London: Here we’re talking about cognitive biases primarily, right? It’s not that I’m biased against you because of your accent or something. These are the cognitive biases that behavioral sciences have shown we all carry around, things like anchoring, overoptimism—these kinds of things.

Both: Yeah.

Charles Conn: Availability bias is the one that I’m always alert to. You think you’ve seen the problem before, and therefore what’s available is your previous conception of it—and we have to be most careful about that. In any human setting, we also have to be careful about biases that are based on hierarchies, sometimes called sunflower bias. I’m sure, Hugo, with your teams, you make sure that the youngest team members speak first. Not the oldest team members, because it’s easy for people to look at who’s senior and alter their own creative approaches.

Hugo Sarrazin: It’s helpful, at that moment—if someone is asserting a point of view—to ask the question “This was true in what context?” You’re trying to apply something that worked in one context to a different one. That can be deadly if the context has changed, and that’s why organizations struggle to change. You promote all these people because they did something that worked well in the past, and then there’s a disruption in the industry, and they keep doing what got them promoted even though the context has changed.

Simon London: Right. Right.

Hugo Sarrazin: So it’s the same thing in problem solving.

Charles Conn: And it’s why diversity in our teams is so important. It’s one of the best things about the world that we’re in now. We’re likely to have people from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and national backgrounds, each of whom sees problems from a slightly different perspective. It is therefore much more likely that the team will uncover a truly creative and clever approach to problem solving.

Simon London: Let’s move on to step five. You’ve done your work plan. Now you’ve actually got to do the analysis. The thing that strikes me here is that the range of tools that we have at our disposal now, of course, is just huge, particularly with advances in computation, advanced analytics. There’s so many things that you can apply here. Just talk about the analysis stage. How do you pick the right tools?

Charles Conn: For me, the most important thing is that we start with simple heuristics and explanatory statistics before we go off and use the big-gun tools. We need to understand the shape and scope of our problem before we start applying these massive and complex analytical approaches.

Simon London: Would you agree with that?

Hugo Sarrazin: I agree. I think there are so many wonderful heuristics. You need to start there before you go deep into the modeling exercise. There’s an interesting dynamic that’s happening, though. In some cases, for some types of problems, it is even better to set yourself up to maximize your learning. Your problem-solving methodology is test and learn, test and learn, test and learn, and iterate. That is a heuristic in itself, the A/B testing that is used in many parts of the world. So that’s a problem-solving methodology. It’s nothing different. It just uses technology and feedback loops in a fast way. The other one is exploratory data analysis. When you’re dealing with a large-scale problem, and there’s so much data, I can get to the heuristics that Charles was talking about through very clever visualization of data.

You test with your data. You need to set up an environment to do so, but don’t get caught up in neural-network modeling immediately. You’re testing, you’re checking—“Is the data right? Is it sound? Does it make sense?”—before you launch too far.

Simon London: You do hear these ideas—that if you have a big enough data set and enough algorithms, they’re going to find things that you just wouldn’t have spotted, find solutions that maybe you wouldn’t have thought of. Does machine learning sort of revolutionize the problem-solving process? Or are these actually just other tools in the toolbox for structured problem solving?

Charles Conn: It can be revolutionary. There are some areas in which the pattern recognition of large data sets and good algorithms can help us see things that we otherwise couldn’t see. But I do think it’s terribly important we don’t think that this particular technique is a substitute for superb problem solving, starting with good problem definition. Many people use machine learning without understanding algorithms that themselves can have biases built into them. Just as 20 years ago, when we were doing statistical analysis, we knew that we needed good model definition, we still need a good understanding of our algorithms and really good problem definition before we launch off into big data sets and unknown algorithms.

Simon London: Step six. You’ve done your analysis.

Charles Conn: I take six and seven together, and this is the place where young problem solvers often make a mistake. They’ve got their analysis, and they assume that’s the answer, and of course it isn’t the answer. The ability to synthesize the pieces that came out of the analysis and begin to weave those into a story that helps people answer the question “What should I do?” This is back to where we started. If we can’t synthesize, and we can’t tell a story, then our decision maker can’t find the answer to “What should I do?”

Simon London: But, again, these final steps are about motivating people to action, right?

Charles Conn: Yeah.

Simon London: I am slightly torn about the nomenclature of problem solving because it’s on paper, right? Until you motivate people to action, you actually haven’t solved anything.

Charles Conn: I love this question because I think decision-making theory, without a bias to action, is a waste of time. Everything in how I approach this is to help people take action that makes the world better.

Simon London: Hence, these are absolutely critical steps. If you don’t do this well, you’ve just got a bunch of analysis.

Charles Conn: We end up in exactly the same place where we started, which is people speaking across each other, past each other in the public square, rather than actually working together, shoulder to shoulder, to crack these important problems.

Simon London: In the real world, we have a lot of uncertainty—arguably, increasing uncertainty. How do good problem solvers deal with that?

Hugo Sarrazin: At every step of the process. In the problem definition, when you’re defining the context, you need to understand those sources of uncertainty and whether they’re important or not important. It becomes important in the definition of the tree.

You need to think carefully about the branches of the tree that are more certain and less certain as you define them. They don’t have equal weight just because they’ve got equal space on the page. Then, when you’re prioritizing, your prioritization approach may put more emphasis on things that have low probability but huge impact—or, vice versa, may put a lot of priority on things that are very likely and, hopefully, have a reasonable impact. You can introduce that along the way. When you come back to the synthesis, you just need to be nuanced about what you’re understanding, the likelihood.

Often, people lack humility in the way they make their recommendations: “This is the answer.” They’re very precise, and I think we would all be well-served to say, “This is a likely answer under the following sets of conditions” and then make the level of uncertainty clearer, if that is appropriate. It doesn’t mean you’re always in the gray zone; it doesn’t mean you don’t have a point of view. It just means that you can be explicit about the certainty of your answer when you make that recommendation.

Simon London: So it sounds like there is an underlying principle: “Acknowledge and embrace the uncertainty. Don’t pretend that it isn’t there. Be very clear about what the uncertainties are up front, and then build that into every step of the process.”

Hugo Sarrazin: Every step of the process.

Simon London: Yeah. We have just walked through a particular structured methodology for problem solving. But, of course, this is not the only structured methodology for problem solving. One that is also very well-known is design thinking, which comes at things very differently. So, Hugo, I know you have worked with a lot of designers. Just give us a very quick summary. Design thinking—what is it, and how does it relate?

Hugo Sarrazin: It starts with an incredible amount of empathy for the user and uses that to define the problem. It does pause and go out in the wild and spend an enormous amount of time seeing how people interact with objects, seeing the experience they’re getting, seeing the pain points or joy—and uses that to infer and define the problem.

Simon London: Problem definition, but out in the world.

Hugo Sarrazin: With an enormous amount of empathy. There’s a huge emphasis on empathy. Traditional, more classic problem solving is you define the problem based on an understanding of the situation. This one almost presupposes that we don’t know the problem until we go see it. The second thing is you need to come up with multiple scenarios or answers or ideas or concepts, and there’s a lot of divergent thinking initially. That’s slightly different, versus the prioritization, but not for long. Eventually, you need to kind of say, “OK, I’m going to converge again.” Then you go and you bring things back to the customer and get feedback and iterate. Then you rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. There’s a lot of tactile building, along the way, of prototypes and things like that. It’s very iterative.

Simon London: So, Charles, are these complements or are these alternatives?

Charles Conn: I think they’re entirely complementary, and I think Hugo’s description is perfect. When we do problem definition well in classic problem solving, we are demonstrating the kind of empathy, at the very beginning of our problem, that design thinking asks us to approach. When we ideate—and that’s very similar to the disaggregation, prioritization, and work-planning steps—we do precisely the same thing, and often we use contrasting teams, so that we do have divergent thinking. The best teams allow divergent thinking to bump them off whatever their initial biases in problem solving are. For me, design thinking gives us a constant reminder of creativity, empathy, and the tactile nature of problem solving, but it’s absolutely complementary, not alternative.

Simon London: I think, in a world of cross-functional teams, an interesting question is do people with design-thinking backgrounds really work well together with classical problem solvers? How do you make that chemistry happen?

Hugo Sarrazin: Yeah, it is not easy when people have spent an enormous amount of time seeped in design thinking or user-centric design, whichever word you want to use. If the person who’s applying classic problem-solving methodology is very rigid and mechanical in the way they’re doing it, there could be an enormous amount of tension. If there’s not clarity in the role and not clarity in the process, I think having the two together can be, sometimes, problematic.

The second thing that happens often is that the artifacts the two methodologies try to gravitate toward can be different. Classic problem solving often gravitates toward a model; design thinking migrates toward a prototype. Rather than writing a big deck with all my supporting evidence, they’ll bring an example, a thing, and that feels different. Then you spend your time differently to achieve those two end products, so that’s another source of friction.

Now, I still think it can be an incredibly powerful thing to have the two—if there are the right people with the right mind-set, if there is a team that is explicit about the roles, if we’re clear about the kind of outcomes we are attempting to bring forward. There’s an enormous amount of collaborativeness and respect.

Simon London: But they have to respect each other’s methodology and be prepared to flex, maybe, a little bit, in how this process is going to work.

Hugo Sarrazin: Absolutely.

Simon London: The other area where, it strikes me, there could be a little bit of a different sort of friction is this whole concept of the day-one answer, which is what we were just talking about in classical problem solving. Now, you know that this is probably not going to be your final answer, but that’s how you begin to structure the problem. Whereas I would imagine your design thinkers—no, they’re going off to do their ethnographic research and get out into the field, potentially for a long time, before they come back with at least an initial hypothesis.

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Hugo Sarrazin: That is a great callout, and that’s another difference. Designers typically will like to soak into the situation and avoid converging too quickly. There’s optionality and exploring different options. There’s a strong belief that keeps the solution space wide enough that you can come up with more radical ideas. If there’s a large design team or many designers on the team, and you come on Friday and say, “What’s our week-one answer?” they’re going to struggle. They’re not going to be comfortable, naturally, to give that answer. It doesn’t mean they don’t have an answer; it’s just not where they are in their thinking process.

Simon London: I think we are, sadly, out of time for today. But Charles and Hugo, thank you so much.

Charles Conn: It was a pleasure to be here, Simon.

Hugo Sarrazin: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Simon London: And thanks, as always, to you, our listeners, for tuning into this episode of the McKinsey Podcast . If you want to learn more about problem solving, you can find the book, Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything , online or order it through your local bookstore. To learn more about McKinsey, you can of course find us at McKinsey.com.

Charles Conn is CEO of Oxford Sciences Innovation and an alumnus of McKinsey’s Sydney office. Hugo Sarrazin is a senior partner in the Silicon Valley office, where Simon London, a member of McKinsey Publishing, is also based.

Explore a career with us

Related articles.

Want better strategies? Become a bulletproof problem solver

Strategy to beat the odds


Five routes to more innovative problem solving

Your cookie preferences

In order to provide you with the best possible experience on the LifeSkills website we use cookies and similar technology to collect data from your device and browser while you are here.  Collecting this data helps us to personalise content for you, understand how you use the website, allow access to social media features and deliver personalised service and advert message content. You can find out more in our Cookie Policy . Please select ‘Accept all’ to consent to us collecting your data in this way. To see other data collection options, select ‘Manage data preferences’.

The types of similar technologies used in this website fall into one of four categories - Strictly Necessary, Performance, Functionality & Profile and Targeting. You can find out more information in our Cookie Policy .

Please indicate the categories you wish to consent to by selecting ‘Manage data preferences’ and using the sliders below and then click “Save preferences” to retain your preferences for future visits. You can change these preferences at any time by clicking Cookie Policy on our website.

Strictly necessary

Data collected in this category is essential to provide our services to you. The data is necessary for the website to operate and to maintain your security and privacy while using the website. Data is not used for marketing purposes or for the purposes covered by the other three categories below. This category can’t be disabled.


These help us improve the experience for all users of the website. Data collected in this category is to inform us how the website is used, improve how our website works and to help us to identify issues you may have when using our website. This data is not used to target you with online advertising.

Data collected in this category is used to help make our messages more relevant to you. The data is shared with other third parties, such as advertisers and platforms we may use to deliver personalised advertisements and messages. If you don’t wish to consent to this category, it’s important to note that you may still receive generic advertising or service messages, but they will be less relevant to you

Functionality & Profile

Data collected in this category enables the website to remember choices you make. This means a more personalised experience for features of the website that can be customised. It may also be used to provide services you've asked for, such as watching a video or commenting on a blog.

For learners from school through to university and beyond

What stage are you at?

For people like teachers, youth group leaders, mentors, local authorities, charities, job centre staff, and parents or carers

Work with a group or a class

Coach an adult

Tools, tips and activities to help your family

Resources for educators

  • Login Sign up for free

Save to a group

Would you like to create a subgroup to help organise your saved items?

  • Young People hub

6 stages of problem solving

6 stages of problem solving

From I want to develop my mindset and skills for work

Problems affect everybody and come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you’re struggling to prepare for an exam, you’re biting your nails waiting to hear back on a job application, or you want to help your community but aren’t sure how. By solving your problems you can stop worrying and get on with things.

Whatever’s bothering us, problems are easier to solve if we break them down into manageable chunks. Remembering these six simple steps will make solving any problem easier.

1. Identify

What’s the problem? Make sure you’re clear on what lies at the heart of the issue. Seeing what it looks like is the best place to start.

More from I want to develop my mindset and skills for work

Listening and problem solving skills can be essential in the workplace

Listening and problem solving skills can be essential in the workplace

See how these skills can be vital in different work place situations and how you can master them and develop other key skills with LifeSkills

Growth mindset for students – what is a growth mindset?

Growth mindset for students – what is a growth mindset?

Find out about growth mindset, what it means and how it can help you to get ahead at school, college, university or in everyday life.

Sophie Takes The Communication Challenge

Sophie Takes The Communication Challenge

Being an expert communicator can help you in any situation. See how Sophie’s communication skills helped her handle a team of undercover customers.

6 stage model of problem solving

Six Steps to Effective Problem Solving Within Organizations

  • Dr. Nancy Zentis
  • March 20, 2015

Six Steps to Effective Problem Solving Within Organizations article


  Managers and their subordinates sometimes lack the problem-solving skills necessary to move things forward within their organizations. Luckily, OD process consulting focused towards problem solving training can be an effective antidote to this, as it helps in building critical skills to handle a possible deadlock.

Problem solving training is an intervention tool that helps managers and employees develop critical thinking skills to sharpen their logic, reasoning, and problem-defining capability. Problem solving training also helps develop abilities to evaluate causation, analyze alternatives, and select and execute solutions. This training is an integral part of organizational efforts to introducing quality management programs as it helps define a process to manage problems.

In this article, we will introduce the six-step problem solving process defined by Edgar Schein, so that teams trained in this can find the best solution to a problem and create an action plan.

Why Use a Problem Solving Process?

Since problems can be many and root causes hidden, it may take an extended period of time to come to a solution. Developing a team to help search for answers and formulating a decision is advantageous to improving organizational quality and efficiency.

OD Problem Solving Process based on Edgar H. Schein’s Approach

OD expert, Edgar Schein along with other OD experts suggested that a process that helps in problem-solving, steers groups to successful outcomes. Schein’s approach is presented in a model that investigates problem definition, brainstorming, group decision-making, idea development, action planning, and assessment.

As an OD consultant, you can use this process to improve communication,  strengthen group cohesion, and make effective decisions.

  • Problem Definition .  Identify problems through  problem formulation and questioning. The key is asking the  right questions to discover root causes.
  • Brainstorming .  During this process,  assumptions are uncovered  and underlying problems are further revealed. Also, this is an opportunity to collect and analyze data.
  • Selection . Decisions are made within the group to  determine the appropriate solution and process  through creative selection .
  • Development .  Once the group has formed solutions and alternatives to the problem(s), they need to explore the pros and cons of each option through  forecasting consequences .
  • Action Planning . Develop an  action plan to implement and execute the solution process.
  • Assessment . This final stage requires an  evaluation of the outcomes and results of the solution process. Ask questions such as: Did the option answer the questions we were working on? Did this process address the findings that came out of the assumptions?

​ This process makes group problem solving in projects and meetings agreeable, action-oriented, and productive. Without a process, it can become challenging for teams or groups to create the best solutions and establish a plan of action.

Do tell us about the problem solving methods you use within your organization. We would love to hear from you.

Reference: Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership, (Vol 2). John Wiley & Sons.

About the Author:  Valamere S. Mikler is the founder and principal consultant of V.S.M. Professional Services and Consulting, a consulting firm providing organizational efficiency and administrative office management services. She can be reached at  [email protected] .

Additional Information: The Institute of Organization Development offers certification in OD Process Consulting. You can become certified as an OD Process Consultant and play an important role as a partner to make the organization more effective and help to align organizational changes with the strategy, culture, structure, systems, skills, and people. To learn more or register, please check out our website: www. instituteod.com or email us at [email protected].


Get updates and learn from the best, explore more articles and posts, certifications, educational resources, © 2021 institute of organization development, cancellation policy, privacy policy.

Project Bliss

The osborn parnes creative problem-solving process.

6 stage model of problem solving

The Osborn Parnes creative problem-solving process is a structured way to generate creative and innovative ways to address problems.

If you want to grow in your career, you need to show you can provide value. This is true no matter where you sit in an organization.

You likely do this in your day-to-day activities.

But if you want to stand out, or do better than the minimum required for your job, you need to find ways to be more valuable to your company.

Problem-solving skills are a great way to do this.

And there are many problem-solving approaches you can use.

By bringing creativity into the approach, you can get an even better variety of potential solutions and ideas.

Benefits of Using Creative Problem Solving  

Osborn Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process - Photo by Shukhrat Umarov from Pexels

Using a creative problem-solving approach has multiple benefits:

  • It provides a structured approach to problem-solving.
  • It results in more possible solution options using both divergent and convergent approaches.
  • You create innovative approaches to change.
  • It’s a collaborative approach that allows multiple participants.
  • By engaging multiple participants in finding solutions, you create a positive environment and buy-in from participants.
  • This approach can be learned.
  • You can use these skills in various areas of life.

Origin of the Osborn Parnes Creative Problem-solving Process

Osborn Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process ProjectBliss

Alex Osborne and Sidney Parnes both focused much of their work on creativity. Osborn is credited with creating brainstorming techniques in the 1940s. He founded the Creative Education Foundation, which Parnes led.

The two collaborated to formalize the process., which is still taught today.  

“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” – George Lois

What is the Osborn Parnes Creative Problem-solving Process

The Osborn Parnes model is a structured approach to help individuals and groups apply creativity to problem-solving. 

There are 6 steps to the Osborn Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Process.

1.    Mess-Finding / Objective Finding

During the Objective-Finding phase, you determine what the goal of your problem-solving process will be.

What’s the intent of carrying out your problem-solving process? Get clear on why you’re doing it. This helps ensure you focus your efforts in the right area.

Knowing your goals and objectives will help you focus your efforts where they have the most value.  

2.    Fact-Finding

The Fact-F inding phase ensures you gather enough data to fully understand the problem.

Once you’ve identified the area you want to focus on, gather as much information as you can. This helps you get a full picture of the situation.

Collect data, gather information, make observations, and employ other methods of learning more about the situation.

You may wish to identify success criteria for the situation at this step, also.

3.    Problem-Finding

The Problem Finding phase allows you to dig deeper into the problem and find the root or real problem you want to focus on. Reframe the problem in order to generate creative and valuable solutions.

Look at the problem and information you’ve gathered in order to better clarify the problem you’ll be solving.

Make sure you’re focusing on the right problem before moving forward to develop a solution.

Personal example: you may think you want to get a second job so you can have more money to take your family on vacations. Upon deeper exploration, you realize your real desire and goal is to find ways to spend more time with your family . That’s the real problem you wish to solve.

Work example: your team has too much work to do and doesn’t have the time to create new software features that customers want. By digging in and reframing the problem you realize the team is more focused on handling support calls. You need to find a solution to handling the support calls, which would free up time for the team to focus on new development. You dig even deeper and learn the support calls are primarily focused on one problem that could be fixed to solve the problem.

“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” – Steve Jobs

4.    Idea-Finding

The Idea-F inding phase allows your team to generate many options for addressing the problem.

Come up with many different potential ideas to address the problem.

Don’t judge the suggestions. Instead, welcome even crazy ideas. Unexpected or odd ideas may help others generate great ideas.

Use brainstorming techniques, affinity mapping and grouping, and other tools to organize the input.

Use “yes, and…” statements rather than “No, but…” statements to keep ideas flowing and avoid discouraging participants from contributing.

5.    Solution-Finding

The Solution Finding phase allows you to choose the best options from the ideas generated in the Idea Finding phase. 

Set selection criteria for evaluating the best choices in order to select the best option. You can weight your criteria if needed to place more emphasis on criteria that may be more important than others. 

Create a prioritization matix with your criteria to help you choose what to focus on.

6.    Action-Finding

In the Action-Finding phase, develop a plan of action to implement the solution you’ve settled on as the best choice. 

Depending on how complex the solution is, you may need to create a more complex plan of action. Your work breakdown structure of activities may be complex or simple.

When creating your action plan, identify who’s responsible for each of the activities, dependencies, and due dates.

If your chosen solution will impact many people or teams, you may need to do an impact analysis, create a communication plan , and get buy-in or participation from more groups. If your solution is simple, you will most likely have a much simpler plan. 

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” – Edward de Bono

Creative Problem-Solving Categories

Osborn Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process ProjectBliss.net

Osborn and Parnes started working on creative problem-solving approaches in the 1950s. Since then, the process has evolved, but the focus on using creativity still remains important.

More recent modifications group the activities into four categories: 

Each of these categories contain the steps listed above to carry out the problem-solving process.

6 stage model of problem solving

As you can see, the steps are still there, but the grouping helps provide a bit more structure to the way teams can think about it.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking

6 stage model of problem solving

The creative problem-solving process uses two thinking styles: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. 

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs

Divergent Thinking

Divergent  thinking is the creative process of generating multiple possible solutions and ideas. It’s usually done in a spontaneous approach where participants share multiple ideas, such as in a brainstorming session.

This approach allows more “out of the box” thinking for creative ideas. 

Once ideas are generated via creative, free-flowing divergent approach, you then move onto convergent thinking. 

Use questions to stimulate creative thinking.

When conducting divergent thinking sessions, don’t criticize suggestions. Instead, welcome ideas. Build on ideas that have been presented and even improve them if possible. 

Instead of saying “No, but…” welcome ideas with responses such as “Yes, and…”

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Convergent Thinking

6 stage model of problem solving

Convergent thinking is the process of evaluating the ideas, analyzing them, and selecting the best solution.

It’s the process of taking all the information gathered in divergent thinking, analyzing it, and finding the single best solution to the problem. 

Determine screening criteria for evaluating ideas. Spend time evaluating the options, and even improve suggestions if possible or needed. 

If an idea seems too crazy, don’t immediately dismiss it. A friend told me once he thought the Bird or Lime scooter business models would never work. If it had been pitched to him, his response would have been “People won’t use them. They’ll destroy them. People won’t be allowed to use them without helmets and won’t be permitted to leave them on the sidewalk.” But it’s turned out in many cities to be a great mode of short-distance transportation. 

Someone taking a strictly convergent approach to problem-solving might skip a creative brainstorming session and instead try to think of a straightforward answer to the problem. 

However, it’s useful to employ both approaches to come up with more options and creative solutions to problems. 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

Running Your Problem-Solving Sessions

6 stage model of problem solving

When using these techniques, use your great facilitation and leadership skills to keep the group focused and moving forward.

For the best meetings possible, follow the guidance in my book Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings That Are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results .

Problem-solving skills and tools are useful both at work and other areas of life.

It’s liberating to know you don’t have to have all the answers to make improvements.

Instead, knowing how to lead and collaborate with others to find solutions will help you stand out as a strong leader and valuable team member to your employer.

Don’t shy away from leading an improvement effort when faced with challenges. Doing so will give you greater confidence to search for solutions in other situations.

And you’ll be known as someone who can tackle challenges and make improvements in the organization. Creating this reputation will be great for your career.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss

Related Posts

Plan Do Check Act PDCA Cycle

Leigh Espy is a project manager and coach with experience working in startups, government, and the corporate world. She works with project managers who want to improve their skills and grow in their career, and entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them get more done. She also remembers her early career days and loves working with new project managers and those who want to make a career move into project management.

' src=

I’m glad ‘problem finding’ is the basis for this. However, I think this is still reductive and presumes a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’. I see ‘problem solving’ as a long way down the path in creativity. Creativity starts with an objective, a challenge, an opportunity. Not a ‘problem’. A problem gets an answer. A challenge gets possibilities.

' src=

am a university student from kenya and my lecturer gave us a question on how to use osbons model to systemtically analyze how to find solutions about corruption in our country and i think the info i got here will help me tackle that question alot

' src=

Great reading – it helped me with my Creativity Tools homework

  • Pingback: Creative Problem-Solving – Riyanthi Sianturi November 7, 2020


  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences


Data & Visuals

6 stage model of problem solving

Partner Center

Book cover

Creativity and Innovation pp 117–147 Cite as

Creative Problem-Solving

  • Terence Lee 4 ,
  • Lauren O’Mahony 5 &
  • Pia Lebeck 6  
  • First Online: 29 January 2023

519 Accesses

This chapter presents Alex Osborn’s 1953 creative problem-solving (CPS) model as a three-procedure approach that can be deployed to problems that emerge in our everyday lives. The three procedures are fact-finding, idea-finding and solution-finding, with each step carefully informed by both divergent and convergent thinking. Using case studies to elaborate on the efficacy of CPS, the chapter also identifies a few common flaws that can impact on creativity and innovation. This chapter explores the challenges posed by ‘wicked problems’ that are particularly challenging in that they are ill-defined, unique, contradictory, multi-causal and recurring; it considers the practical importance of building team environments, of embracing diversity and difference, and other characteristics of effective teams. The chapter builds conceptually and practically on the earlier chapters, especially Chapter 4 , and provides case studies to help make sense of the key principles of creative problem-solving.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution .

Buying options

  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

The creative problem-solving process explored in this chapter is not to be confused with the broader ‘creative process’ that is presented in Chapter 2 of this book. See Chapter 2 to understand what creative process entails.

A general online search of the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) process will generate many results. One of them is: https://projectbliss.net/osborn-parnes-creative-problem-solving-process/ . Osborn is largely credited as the creator of CPS, hence references are largely made to him (Osborn 1953 , 1957 ).

Founded in 2002, Fahrenheit 212 described itself as “a global innovation consultancy delivering sustainable, profitable growth for companies by pairing business acumen and consumer empathy.” It merged with Capgemini Consulting in 2016 and remains based in New York City, USA. ( https://www.capgemini.com/in-en/news/press-releases/capgemini-acquires-innovation-and-design-consultancy-fahrenheit-212-to-drive/ ).

More information on the NeoNurture incubator can be found in the Design That Matters website ( https://www.designthatmatters.org/ ) and in a TEDx presentation by Timothy Prestero ( https://www.ted.com/talks/timothy_prestero_design_for_people_not_awards ) (Prestero 2012 ).

For more information on the Embrace infant warmer, see Embrace Global: https://www.embraceglobal.org/ .

See also David Alger’s popular descriptions of the ‘Rules of Improv’ (Parts 1 and 2): https://www.pantheater.com/rules-of-improv.html ; and, ‘How to be a better improvisor’: https://www.pantheater.com/how-to-be-a-better-improvisor.html .

For more information about the Bay of Pigs, visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at Columbia Point, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Online information can be accessed here: https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/the-bay-of-pigs .

Bhat, R. 2021. Solving Wicked Problems Is What MBA Programs Need to Prepare the Students For? Business World Education . May 20. Available: http://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Solving-Wicked-Problems-Is-What-MBA-Programs-Need-To-Prepare-The-Students-For-/20-05-2021-390302/. Accessed 30 August 2022.

Bratton, J., et al. 2010. Work and Organizational Behaviour , 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Book   Google Scholar  

Buzan, T. 1974. Use Your Head . London: BBC Active.

Google Scholar  

Cohen, A.K., and J.R. Cromwell. 2021. How to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic with More Creativity and Innovation. Population Health Management 24 (2): 153–155.

Article   Google Scholar  

Cunningham, E., B. Smyth, and D. Greene. 2021. Collaboration in the Time of COVID: A Scientometric Analysis of Multidisciplinary SARSCoV-2 Research. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications. 8 (240): 1–8.

Cunningham, S. 2021. Sitting with Difficult Things: Meaningful Action in Contested Times. Griffith Review 71 (February): 124–133.

De Bono, E. 1985. Six Thinking Hats . Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Dutta, K. 2018. Solving Wicked Problems: Searching for the Critical Cognitive Trait. The International Journal of Management Education 16 (3): 493–503.

Elia, G., and A. Margherita. 2018. Can we Solve Wicked Problems? A Conceptual Framework and a Collective Intelligence System to Support Problem Analysis and Solution Design for Complex Social Issues. Technological Forecasting & Social Change 133: 279–286.

Engler, J.O., D.J. Abson, and H. von Wehrden. 2021. The Coronavirus Pandemic as an Analogy for Future Sustainability. Sustainability Science 16: 317–319.

Grivas, C., and G. Puccio. 2012. The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Holmes, K. 2021. Generation Covid: Crafting History and Collective Memory. Griffith Review 71 (February): 79–88.

Kapoor, H., and J.C. Kaufman. 2020. Meaning-Making Through Creativity During COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology 18 (December): 1–8.

Kelley, T. 2001. The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm . New York, NY: Random House.

Kite-Powell, J. 2014. Simple Tech Creates Infant-Warmer to Save Lives in Developing Countries. Forbes , 29 January. Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2014/01/29/simple-tech-creates-infant-warmer-to-save-lives-in-developing-countries/?sh=df540aa758c1. Accessed 31 August 2022.

May, M. 2009. In Pursuit of Elegance . NY: Broadway Books.

McShane, S., M. Olekalns, and T. Travaglione. 2010. Organisational Behaviour on the Pacific Rim , 3rd ed. Sydney: McGraw Hill.

Osborn, A. 1953. Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking . New York: Scribners.

Osborn, A. 1957. Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking , 10th ed. New York: Scribners.

Page, S.E. 2007. The Difference: How the power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Page, S.E. 2011. Diversity and Complexity . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Page, S.E. 2012. The Hidden Factor: Why Thinking Differently Is Your Greatest Asset . Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses.

Payne, M. 2014. How to Kill a Unicorn: How the World’s Hottest Innovation Factory Builds Bold Ideas That Make It to Market . New York: Crown Business.

Potter, A., M. McClure, and K. Sellers. 2010. Mass Collaboration Problem Solving: A New Approach to Wicked Problems. Proceedings of 2010 International Symposium on Collaborative Technologies and Systems . IEEE Explore, Chicago, Illinois. May 17–21: 398–407.

Prestero, T. 2012. Design for People, Not Awards. TEDxBoston . Available: https://www.ted.com/speakers/timothy_prestero. Accessed 30 August 2022.

Proctor, T. 2013. Creative Problem Solving for Managers: Developing Skills for Decision Making and Managers , 4th ed. New York: Routledge.

Puccio, G.J. 2012. Creativity Rising: Creative Thinking and Creative Problem Solving in the 21st Century . Buffalo, NY: ICSC Press.

Rittel, H.W.J., and M.M. Webber. 1973. Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sciences 4 (2), June: 155–169.

Roberto, M. 2009. The Art of Critical Decision Making: The Great Courses. Chantilly, Virginia: The Teaching Company.

Roy, A. 2020. Arundhati Roy: “The Pandemic is a Portal”. Financial Times , April 4. Available: https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca . Accessed 28 February 2022.

Ruggiero, V.R. 2009. The Art of Thinking: A Guide to Critical and Creative Thought , 9th ed. New York: Longman.

Sawyer, K. 2007. Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration . New York: Basic Books.

Schuelke-Leech, B. 2021. A Problem Taxonomy for Engineering. IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society 2 (2), June: 105.

Stellar, D. 2010. The PlayPump: What Went Wrong? State of the Planet, Columbia Climate School. Columbia University. Available: https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2010/07/01/the-playpump-what-went-wrong/. Accessed 30 August 2022.

Surowiecki, J. 2004. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Businesses, Economies, Societies and Nations . New York: Anchor Books.

Sweet, C., H. Blythe, and R. Carpenter. 2021. Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Three Principles. The National Teaching and Learning Forum. 30 (5): 6–8.

Taibbi, R. 2011. The Tao of Improv: 5 Rules for Improvising Your Life. Psychology Today , 25 January. Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201101/the-tao-improv-5-rules-improvising-your-life. Accessed 1 September 2022.

Walton, M. 2010. Playpump is Not a Panacea for Africa’s Water Problems. Circle of Blue , July 24. Available: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/playpump-not-a-panacea-for-africas-water-problems/. Accessed 30 August 2022.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2022. Child Mortality (Under 5 Years). Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/levels-and-trends-in-child-under-5-mortality-in-2020. Accessed 28 February 2022.

Download references

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Humanities and Social Sciences, Sheridan Institute of Higher Education, Perth, WA, Australia

Terence Lee

Media and Communication, Murdoch University, Perth, WA, Australia

Lauren O’Mahony

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, WA, Australia

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Terence Lee .

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this chapter

Cite this chapter.

Lee, T., O’Mahony, L., Lebeck, P. (2023). Creative Problem-Solving. In: Creativity and Innovation. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-8880-6_5

Download citation

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-8880-6_5

Published : 29 January 2023

Publisher Name : Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore

Print ISBN : 978-981-19-8879-0

Online ISBN : 978-981-19-8880-6

eBook Packages : Business and Management Business and Management (R0)

Share this chapter

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Publish with us

Policies and ethics

  • Find a journal
  • Track your research


Log in classic, log in plus.


The Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model Explained

When an individual experiences a crisis, the proper response can make a life-saving difference. Mental health professionals must understand these nuanced situations and enact steps to bring the patient back to a healthy place. One model that can guide these responses is Gilliland's six-step crisis intervention strategy. By moving through the steps with care and concern for the individual, mental health professionals can help guide the person in crisis away from dangerous actions and toward their pre-crisis state.

We'll take a closer look at this crisis intervention model and how crisis workers can use it to assist their clients.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Define the Problem

Step 2: Ensure the Individual's Safety

Step 3: Provide Support

Step 4: Explore Alternatives

Step 5: Make Plans

Step 6: Obtain Commitment

The Benefits of the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model

Tips for Using the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model

When to Use the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model

Implementing the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model

Crisis Intervention Toolkit

What is the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model?

According to the creators of the six-step model , a crisis occurs when someone perceives or experiences an event or situation as intolerable, with demands that exceed their current resources and coping mechanisms. When this happens, they need assistance to regain control and stabilize. The six-step model enlists a systematic process of listening and responding to empower the individual and help them return to their pre-crisis psychological state. Assessments occur at every step, and the crisis worker listens attentively to make their evaluations.

The six steps involved in this method include three listening-oriented steps and three action-oriented steps. The first three focus on listening.

Step number one asks the crisis worker to define the problem. This first stage establishes a connection between the crisis worker and the client as they begin discussing the issue. To fully understand the situation and form a bond with the client, the crisis worker implements:

  • Active listening:  Active listening requires placing your full attention on the client, demonstrating acceptance and removing biases. The crisis worker must understand the client's perspective without allowing their feelings to get in the way. This type of listening also helps improve the relationship between the two parties.
  • Empathy:  Practicing empathy is about taking someone else's point of view and showing them that you understand them. It asks you to remove any judgment or biases and accept the patient as a whole person, not define them by their current situation. It also requires being in the present and putting the other person and their feelings first. Empathy is essential throughout the six-step process, especially when establishing the relationship.
  • Genuineness: People can often tell when you aren't being genuine. In a crisis, this can quickly paint you as untrustworthy and break down the relationship between crisis worker and client. Speak genuinely but carefully and solidify your position as a trustworthy partner in their mental health.
  • Understanding: You also need to show the client that you understand their situation. You may use language that confirms you understand the problem or relate to their issue somehow.

The crisis worker should look at the problem from the client's point of view. They should try to understand where the client is coming from and their available resources, such as coping skills or caring friends and family.

Crisis intervention plan

A vital part of any crisis intervention plan is ensuring the individual cannot harm themselves or others. At this stage, the crisis worker conducts suicide risk assessments and homicide risk assessments. You may evaluate factors like agitation or the client's potential for causing harm.

Another important step here is controlling the individual's access to dangerous items. These can be as clear-cut as firearms or as subtle as office supplies, like staplers and paper cutters. The client's location and the resources of the mental health crisis system will make a big difference in this step.

For example, an inpatient psychiatric client likely has far less access to harmful items than a client being treated through a mobile care unit. That client might be able to use a variety of dangerous instruments and lack supervision when the crisis worker leaves.

The crisis worker must help transition the client into a safe environment before they can work on the next steps.

In the third step, the crisis worker shows the client that they accept and care for them. They'll discuss the problem and offer support for meeting basic needs. These might come in the form of:

  • Emotional support: The crisis worker must express emotional support through statements that illustrate empathy, trust, and care. Emotional support can also come from trusted friends and family.
  • Instrumental support: Instrumental support refers to services and aid, like shelter and food. Fulfilling basic needs is a necessary prerequisite for the problem-solving that occurs in the next three action steps.
  • Informational support: By providing informational support, the crisis worker offers advice and suggestions. You might teach the individual about healthy coping strategies or reassure them that many resources are available.

The goal of these supports is to set the person up so they can understand the options available for dealing with the situation.

As we switch gears into the action steps, step four is about finding new solutions and navigating possibilities. The crisis worker collaborates with the person in crisis to explore these options. If their coping skills are weaker, the crisis worker may need to offer more assistance at this step, but it's important to draw on assessments first to understand the client's capabilities.

Other elements that the crisis workers might draw on during this step include situational supports, like people in the individual's life who care about them or coping mechanisms that can help them through the situation so they can move into the problem-solving stage.

During this step, it's necessary to use and cultivate positive, constructive thinking patterns. The crisis worker may need to spend some time helping the client reframe their thoughts in more positive ways.

Crisis worker responsibilities

With trust established and options explored, it's time to make a plan. During step five, the individual and the crisis worker continue to collaborate, building a plan with clear, concrete steps that will help the client regain control. These plans must be realistic and achievable.

They should empower the client, making them feel like they can accomplish the tasks and take ownership of the recovery process. This step relies heavily on collaboration with the client because it helps them take control, using their existing resources and capabilities.

The individual's plan should be detailed and straightforward. It might involve referrals and resources like people or groups that can help the client, such as support groups, medical providers, or food banks.

The last step is to obtain commitment. Getting commitment might be as simple as asking the client to verbalize the plan or as complex as writing up a document and having both parties sign it. In either case, the crisis worker needs to confirm that the client fully understands the plan and feels capable of following through.

The crisis worker should also make plans to follow up with the client. You can create a sense of accountability and, of course, help ensure the client's well-being. If the client needs further care, the crisis worker can also make referrals.

Crisis intervention is a powerful tool. An unmanaged crisis can lead to significant psychological stress, which can link to major depressive disorder or other mental health conditions. Crisis intervention has proven efficacy in preventing mental illness from developing and helping to treat patients currently suffering from one.

Studies have even shown that emergency departments with crisis intervention teams saw reduced return visits and shorter durations of stay. They reduced the number of repeat admissions and found that the interventions were more effective than standard care in improving the patient's mental health.

We know that crisis intervention can be a critical part of improving psychiatric case outcomes. The six-step model emphasizes two distinct components of helping someone with a problem — listening and taking action. It covers vital steps of crisis intervention, like creating a bond with the client, identifying resources, and guiding them toward a healthy solution. It also offers a clear, systematic approach that helps ensure the crisis worker accomplishes the tasks that can help the client.

Although the six-step crisis model is fairly straightforward, it still requires the nuance demanded of crisis intervention. Some things to keep in mind when using the six-step crisis model include:

  • Accurate assessments: This strategy is based on the results of your assessments. They must be accurate. Crisis workers must remember that every person and situation is unique. Generalizations can lead to dangerous errors that divert the treatment plan. Robust assessment tools can be particularly useful in the six-step strategy.
  • Empowerment: Crises occur when a person loses control and feels unsafe. The six-step model focuses on restoring that power through collaboration. The crisis worker should maintain an open mind when problem-solving and look for routes that help the person regain control. A heavy-handed approach might be necessary for some patients, but they should contribute to the best of their ability.
  • Action-oriented strategizing: Crisis intervention is focused on action and the situation at hand. Crisis workers should recognize the impacts of the situation, anticipate its effects and help the client create a plan. Each step in the process should be geared toward that end goal.
  • Focus on the present: Similarly, crisis intervention offers immediate support. Unlike long-term solutions like psychotherapy, the crisis worker must provide immediate support, like coping skills that the patient can use right away or access to resources that they can use to quickly return to the pre-crisis state.
  • A holistic view of the client: The crisis worker needs to maintain their holistic view of the client, considering the whole person instead of separating them from their cognitive and emotional function.

Tips for Using the Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model

Crisis intervention is an immediate, short-term response to mental, physical, emotional and behavioral distress. It is not a long-term option like psychotherapy or similar treatments. The goal is to restore the person's functioning to before the crisis and reduce the opportunity for long-term trauma. It aims to help the client get access to assistance, support and resources that help them become stable.

The six-step model can be used in many situations, but some common triggers for crises include:

  • Family situations: Some family situations — like child or spousal abuse, unplanned pregnancy or serious or chronic illness — can cause stress and lead to a crisis.
  • Economic situations: Financial strain from the loss of a job, eviction, theft, medical expenses, gambling or poverty can trigger many crises based on the sudden or chronic financial strain they create.
  • Community situations: An individual's community can also contribute to their mental state. For example, someone facing violence in their neighborhood, poor housing or inadequate community resources might experience a crisis.
  • Significant life events: Some events often viewed as happy situations can paradoxically trigger crises. These might include marriage, the birth of a child or a promotion at work. Other significant events, like raising a rebellious adolescent, losing a loved one or seeing a grown child leave the nest can also cause a crisis.
  • Natural elements: Plenty of natural disasters can trigger crises, such as floods, hurricanes and fires. They might involve harm to a loved one or the destruction of possessions, creating states of distress. Even seemingly minor events, like a bout of gloomy or hot weather, can put someone into a crisis state.

Some signs that someone is in crisis and may need the help of an intervention strategy include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Difficulty eating or sleeping.
  • Depression.
  • Neglected personal hygiene.

Symptoms can vary widely, but remember that a crisis intervention plan is generally warranted when the situation exceeds the patient's resources and coping skills.

ICANotes Can Help

Implementing the six-step crisis intervention model will look different for various providers, such as inpatient crisis teams or mobile crisis response units. Still, completing the six steps typically requires robust documentation to ensure appropriate billing procedures , patient assessment, and follow-up care. Without the proper documentation solution, you might be spending too much time on paperwork and not enough time on the client. Or you might completely neglect your notes. To make the process easier, use a documentation platform that allows for quick, intuitive note-taking.

ICANotes is that platform, offering a cloud-based solution for mobile, inpatient, or outpatient crisis intervention. It eliminates the busy work, allowing you to focus on your patient and their acute problems without ignoring necessary documentation procedures. ICANotes mental health EHR software also supports a range of other tasks, like billing, reporting, referrals, e-prescribing and scheduling . From initial suicide risk assessments to referrals to other mental health professionals, ICANotes simplifies the entire process.

If the six-step crisis intervention model is part of your practice, ICANotes can help. With intuitive note-taking features and an array of assessment tools, you can successfully follow the patient-centered approach of this model. Collect all the information you need to make an accurate evaluation and help the patient move forward. To learn more about ICANotes and how it can help you with the 6-step model, explore its features or reach out to us today for more information!

Start Your Free Trial Today

Interventions for Anxiety

Depression Assessment Tools 

Interventions for Anxiety

Interventions for Anxiety

How to Decide What Rates to Charge for Your Therapy Services

How to Decide What Rates to Charge for Your Therapy Services

How to Write Couples Therapy Notes

How to Write Couples Therapy Notes

Recent DSM-5-TR Updates

Recent DSM-5-TR Updates

Types of Therapy Notes

Types of Therapy Notes

6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Medical Transcribing Services

6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Medical Transcribing Services

Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy for Treating ADD and ADHD

Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy for Treating ADD and ADHD

Life Skill Activities for Group Therapy

5 Life Skills Activities for Group Therapy

Tips for Effective Couple Therapy Sessions

14 Tips for Effective Couple Therapy Sessions

  • https://www.counseling.org/resources/library/Selected%20Topics/Disaster/vistas06.03.pdf
  • https://positivepsychology.com/active-listening/
  • https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2021/08/practicing-empathy-as-a-mental-health-first-aider/
  • https://www.med.upenn.edu/hbhe4/part3-ch9-key-constructs-social-support.shtml
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559081/
  • https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/social-services-manual/crisis-intervention
  • https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/warning-signs-risk-factors
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
  • Psychiatric Hospital Records
  • Certified Drug & Alcohol Abuse Counselors
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • Family Therapists
  • Group Therapy
  • EHRs for Integrated Care
  • Sample Notes
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Document Management
  • Patient Portal
  • Clearinghouses
  • Health Information Exchange Integration
  • Interoperability
  • Lab Integration
  • PDMP Integration
  • Mobile Medication Management
  • Automatic Coding
  • ONC-ATCB Certification
  • CARF Compliance
  • Joint Commission
  • Meaningful Use
  • Medicaid-Compliant EHR Software
  • Assessment Tools
  • Behavioral Health EHR
  • Sample Treatment Plans
  • Note Writing Tips
  • Treatment Planning
  • Practice Management
  • Mental Health Care Trends
  • All Blog Categories
  • Our Leadership Team
  • Customer Reviews
  • Quote Request
  • Remote Support
  • Access ICANotes
  • Knowledge Base
  • Support Portal
  • User Guides and Documentation


  1. 6 steps problem solving process powerpoint slide

    6 stage model of problem solving

  2. the 6 step problem solving model

    6 stage model of problem solving

  3. Problem Solving Cycle

    6 stage model of problem solving

  4. 5 step problem solving method

    6 stage model of problem solving

  5. 6 step problem solving process

    6 stage model of problem solving

  6. Problem-Solving Stages PowerPoint Template & Slides

    6 stage model of problem solving


  1. Solving the problem based on a^m÷a^n=a^m-n#exponentsandpowers#maths#student#mathsteacher#mathshorts

  2. Problem Solving: Unknown Angle Measures

  3. Extreme Engineering: How Tesla Is KILLING Competition

  4. Tesla's Hidden Trillion Dollar Business

  5. Problem Solving Strategy|Mathematics|4 steps Math Problem Solving|How to solve age problem|Class 6-8

  6. Lean Coach: Problem Solving Coaching / Avoiding Jumping to Solutions


  1. PDF www.free-management-ebooks.com/news/six-step-problem-solving-model/ The

    Problem solving models are used to address the many challenges that arise in the workplace. While many people regularly solve problems, there are a range of different ... Step 6) Evaluate the Outcome - This final stage requires an evaluation of the outcomes and results of the solution process. Ask questions such as: Did the option answer the

  2. PDF Six-step Problem Solving Model

    the model makes it easier for your group to remember when solving a problem. The Problem Solving Model 6. Evaluate the Outcome 3. Develop Alternative Solutions 1. Define the Problem 4. S el ct a Solution 2. Determine the ... like pieces of a puzzle. In this first stage, a group identifies and discusses the symptoms and scope of the problem ...

  3. Six-Step Problem-Solving Model

    This six-step model is designed for the workplace, but is easily adaptable to other settings such as schools and families. It emphasizes the cyclical, continuous nature of the problem-solving process. The model describes in detail the following steps: Step One: Define the Problem. Step Two: Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem

  4. The Six-Step Problem-Solving Model: A Collaborative Approach to

    The Six Step Problem Solving Model isn't just a method; it's a mindset. A mindset that ensures problems are tackled systematically and collaboratively, driving teams towards effective ...

  5. A Lean Journey: The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process

    Step 3: Develop The Solutions. Establish criteria for selecting a solution. Generate potential solutions that will address the root causes of the problem. Select a solution. Gain approval and supporter the chosen solution. Plan the solution. Step 4: Implement A Solution.

  6. The Problem-Solving Process

    The Problem-Solving Process. Problem-solving is an important part of planning and decision-making. The process has much in common with the decision-making process, and in the case of complex decisions, can form part of the process itself. We face and solve problems every day, in a variety of guises and of differing complexity.

  7. The Problem-Solving Process

    Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing, and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue. The best strategy for solving a problem depends largely on the unique situation. In some cases, people are better off learning everything ...

  8. Problem-Solving Models: What They Are and How To Use Them

    Here is a six-step process to follow when using a problem-solving model: 1. Define the problem. First, determine the problem that your team needs to solve. During this step, teams may encourage open and honest communication so everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.

  9. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below. Step. Characteristics. 1. Define the problem. Differentiate fact from opinion. Specify underlying causes. Consult each faction involved for information. State the problem specifically.

  10. The McKinsey guide to problem solving

    The McKinsey guide to problem solving. Become a better problem solver with insights and advice from leaders around the world on topics including developing a problem-solving mindset, solving problems in uncertain times, problem solving with AI, and much more.

  11. The Art of Effective Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 1 - Define the Problem. The definition of the problem is the first step in effective problem solving. This may appear to be a simple task, but it is actually quite difficult. This is because problems are frequently complex and multi-layered, making it easy to confuse symptoms with the underlying cause.

  12. TheBig6.org

    The Big6 is a six-stage model to help anyone solve problems or make decisions by using information. Some call it information literacy, inquiry, research skills, or an information problem-solving process…but we call it the Big6! Using the Big6, you will identify goals, seek, use, and assemble relevant, credible information, then reflect—is ...

  13. How to master the seven-step problem-solving process

    To discuss the art of problem solving, I sat down in California with McKinsey senior partner Hugo Sarrazin and also with Charles Conn. Charles is a former McKinsey partner, entrepreneur, executive, and coauthor of the book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything [John Wiley & Sons, 2018].

  14. 6 stages of problem solving

    Remembering these six simple steps will make solving any problem easier. 1. Identify. What's the problem? Make sure you're clear on what lies at the heart of the issue. Seeing what it looks like is the best place to start. Log in or register to see the next steps. Improve your problem solving technique with this simple 6-step process from ...

  15. PDF Six Steps to Effective Problem Solving Within Organizations

    Problem solving training is an intervention tool that helps managers and employees develop critical ... Schein's approach is presented in a model that investigates problem definition, brainstorming, group decision-making, idea development, action planning, and assessment. ... 6. Assessment. This final stage requires an evaluation of the ...

  16. Six Steps to Effective Problem Solving Within Organizations

    Problem Definition . Identify problems through problem formulation and questioning. The key is asking the right questions to discover root causes. Brainstorming . During this process, assumptions are uncovered and underlying problems are further revealed. Also, this is an opportunity to collect and analyze data. Selection.

  17. The Osborn Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Process

    The creative problem-solving process uses two thinking styles: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while".

  18. The 5 Stages of Problem-Solving

    Data & Visuals. Business communication Why Groups Struggle to Solve Problems Together.

  19. PDF Creative Problem Solving

    CPS is a comprehensive system built on our own natural thinking processes that deliberately ignites creative thinking and produces innovative solutions. Through alternating phases of divergent and convergent thinking, CPS provides a process for managing thinking and action, while avoiding premature or inappropriate judgment. It is built upon a ...

  20. Creative Problem-Solving

    The creative problem-solving process Footnote 1 is a systematic approach to problem-solving that was first proposed by Alex Osborn in 1953 in his landmark book Applied Imagination.The approach went through several refinements over a period of five years. Osborn began with a seven-step model that reflected the creative process (orientation, preparation, analysis, hypothesis, incubation ...

  21. PDF The Stages of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Process

    Stage. Purpose. How to Diverge. How to Converge. Stage 1: Objective Finding (OF) To find a goal, wish or challenge upon which you might want to apply the Creative Problem Solving process. List your goals, wishes, or challenges. Make a long list of wishes even if you already know your general area of interest.

  22. The Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model Explained

    The six-step model focuses on restoring that power through collaboration. The crisis worker should maintain an open mind when problem-solving and look for routes that help the person regain control. A heavy-handed approach might be necessary for some patients, but they should contribute to the best of their ability.