Problem Solving … The PHD Course (part 3) Defining Success

In my blog Problem Solving … The PHD course (part 1) we talked about the first step, getting your client’s permission to investigate and explore their problem space. Part 2 talked about understanding the problem space and now we can investigate what defines success for your client and your client’s “system” .

Defining Success – Does resolving the problem define success?

Can you help me get my cat down from the tree?…. Certainly! He says.

Problem Resolved.

striped%20cat%20up%20tree chainsaw180_tcm9-113127

What defines success? It obviously is not just the resolution of the problem but also:

  • how it is resolved, the process and the remedies
  • any negative or positive impacts to the client system associated with the resolution
  • how fast it is resolved
  • how much the resolution costs
  • what risks are involved in the resolution
  • etc.

So how do you find out what your client defines as success?

Allow me to suggest a technique.

Synectics

Synectics is a technique specifically designed to drive out a solution that the client and client system is committed to implement. In other words, a solution they “like”.

Step One: Have your client state the problem in their own words.

“I need to get my cat out of the tree.”

Step Two: Direct Analogies

Ask analogous situations to be described from the people involved.

  • “Rescue a person from a burning building”
  • “Find a lost pet”
  • “Go on a scavenger hunt for something valuable”

Ask the client to pick one that they think represents facets of the problem. This is the “Springboard”

Step Three: Analysis of the Direct Analogy
Write down all of the facts and information about the analogy. It is important at this stage not to refer to the problem as given but just to concentrate on the characteristics of the analogy.

Let’s assume the client chose “Rescue a person from a burning building”

Facts

  • safety of the victim
  • emergency
  • use of professionals and proper equipment
  • speed of response – 911
  • speed of resolution
  • insurance
  • water damage
  • danger to rescuers by smoke or fire
  • etc.

Your client has picked intuitively something that aligns with the problem and resolution. By driving out the facts, many of these will be attributes your client wants considered in the resolution.

Step Four: Force Fit and Viewpoint
Now think about the problem in terms of the characteristics of the analogy. Look for ideas or perspectives about the problem by applying the analogy to it.

Take the list of the characteristics, one by one, and see if there is a link, application or perspective for the problem.

For example:

Problem – Cat is in the tree

Attributes:

  • safety of the victim (cat)
  • use of professionals and proper equipment (ladder and competent person)
  • speed of resolution (time to accomplish this is important)
  • danger to rescuers (not putting the people involved in the resolution at high risk)

Now do a quick comparison of the options to get the cat out of the tree compared to this list attributes the client “likes”

 

Spray the Cat with a Water Hose

Fell the Tree

Climb a Ladder Safely

resolves problem

Yes

Yes

Yes

safety of the victim

No

No

Yes

use of professionals and proper equipment

No

No

Yes

speed of resolution

Yes

Yes

Yes

no danger to rescuers

Yes

No

Yes

The Synectics exercise need not be explicit. What I mean by that is that you don’t have to sit your client down and say “and now we’re going to do a synectics exercise”

Let me provide an IT style example instead of “Tigger the cat”. Remember we are not using Synectics to drive out the potential technical solutions to the problem, we are using it to drive out what your client will “like” about any potential solutions.

IT Problem: Bug counts are too high in development and take too long to fix resulting in delayed time to market for new applications

So if this wasn’t your industry how would you describe it?

  • well if I owner of  a barber shop, there were too many bad haircuts given by my employees
  • if I were NASA, all the little launch things that could go wrong would add up to 10 years between each shuttle flight
  • if I were Toyota I’d be recalling millions of vehicles for a faulty gas pedal every few weeks.

Which one represents your problem the closest?

NASA

Attributes or Facets of this problem?

  • very many people
  • lots of processes
  • complex processes
  • complex technology
  • fragile technology
  • technology that has state “ready, not ready”
  • lots of testing
  • huge cost per mission
  • delays are very costly
  • people waiting to see it fly
  • safety of astronauts and public is paramount
  • superb training
  • CMM level 5
  • lots of contractors
  • communication
  • presidential oversight
  • government and private industry funding

Pick out the attributes you think has some reflection in your environment and talk to me about it ?

  • very many people – too many people on a single problem frustrates good communication, smaller teams are better
  • lots of processes
  • complex processes – processes are necessary but if they get to be too much will people comply?
  • complex technology
  • fragile technology
  • technology that has state “ready, not ready” – we need to make sure that all the parts are in “ready-state” at the same time, coordinate components
  • lots of testing – I don’t think its the volume of testing that is wrong, just the thoroughness
  • huge cost per mission – we need to reduce the cost of each delivery
  • delays are very costly
  • people waiting to see it fly
  • safety of astronauts and public is paramount – I believe in my people, they are good and smart and motivated but something else is wrong
  • superb training – people don’t understand the processes or tools at a level they need
  • CMM level 5
  • lots of contractors – too many outsiders just make the internal communication worse
  • communication
  • presidential oversight – our people need to understand that these delays have big visibility
  • government and private industry funding

….. Okay we gave garnered some important feedback about what the client is thinking about.

Let’s pre-test these with some hypothetical resolutions.

Bring in an Outsourcer to do it all.

Augment the Team with Specialty Contractors

Train and Equip the team with new tools and simplified processes

Do not add people

N/A – you fired them all

No

Yes

Simplify Processes

No

No

Yes

Coordinate Delivery

No

No

Yes

Reduce Cost

Yes

No

Yes

Believe in your team

No

No

Yes

Training

No

No

Yes

No more outsiders

No

No

Yes

Visibility

No

Yes

Yes

So what type of solution is your client most likely to support in implementation?

Synectics.

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2 Responses to Problem Solving … The PHD Course (part 3) Defining Success

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

  2. Pingback: The perfect consultant – The Ambivert? | Infinite Shades of Grey

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