Introduction.Structuring techniques help overcome limitations of human problem solving. Effective structuring analysis techniques logically organize the elements of a problem to help us analyze each element separately, systematically and sufficiently. In this article you will learn one of the most powerful problem solving tool to solve real-world problems. It is called as Problem Restatement.Problem statement that defines a problem must take causes of a problem into account.
It must distinguish between problem and symptoms of the problem. The quality of the solution depends on the quality of the problem definition. This is due to the fact that analysis of a problem leads us in a certain direction towards a particular solution. Therefore defining a problem in terms of its symptoms will lead to a poor solution to the actual problem.
So it is important that we understand the difference between causes of a problem and symptoms of a problem. A problem statement that takes into account the causes of a problem makes it easier to consider and evaluate all the alternatives to a particular problem and results in a superior solution.Example.How can I stop my headache? Vs What is the source of my headache?.First question fails to distinguish between causes and symptoms. It leads to solutions such as taking medicine, using headache balm etc.
Whereas the second question leads to solutions that could address the real problem such as allergy, lack of sleep etc.What is Problem Restatement?.Problem Restatement is a technique that is used to broaden our perspective of a problem. Redefine the problem in as many different ways as possible. The key to doing this is to get into divergent mode and generate as many restatements as possible.
You must suspend your judgment during this process.Problem restatement helps us to identify the core issues and alternative solutions. However it will not solve the problem. It only points us in the right direction and the outcome of the analysis will resolve the problem.
The poorer a problem is defined harder it becomes to redefine the problem. In such cases, we must clearly define the problem.Most of the time restatement of a problem will uncover several problems.
Sometimes it will point to a solution.Example of Problem Restatement.Mr. Commuter got a new job in a metro area that pays $60 / hr.
He commutes to work everyday and spends 40-60 minutes in driving. Mr. Commuter thinks that he has a problem because he spends 80 ? 120 minutes everyday commuting to work. He has to drive 44 miles everyday to commute. He also feels that his commuting is making him feel tired.
He pays $59 / night for accommodation. Reducing the miles increases the room rate.The initial problem statement identifies wasting time and getting tired as the main issues.Problem Restatement: How can I utilize my time during commute? , How can I get more energy?.The question: How can I minimize the commute time? Can lead to the following options:.
· Carpool.· Take advantage of the fact that Hybrid one driver cars are allowed to drive on the carpool lane.· Drive during non-peak times.The alternatives that are listed above are generated by analysis of the situation. What is the real problem here? Who is the culprit distance or time? The symptoms are long commuting time and tiredness. The causes are traffic congestion and diet/exercise.
When you are using this technique on behalf of someone else, it is better to work in the presence of that person. This enables you to focus on the concerns and key issues of the stakeholder(s). It also facilitates agreement about the actual problem and helps us to guide our analysis towards the solution.
Causes of Poor Problem Definition.Vague or broad definition that lacks focus. Too narrow definition with misdirected focus. Assumptions in problem definition. Solutions in problem definition. Example for cause number one: What should we do about cars on the highway?.
This fails to identify the problem.Example for cause number two: Mr. Commuter's time is wasted. How can we get him to drive faster?.
Driving slow may not be the problem. If it isn't, forcing Mr. Commuter to drive faster may lead to other problems.Example for cause number three: How can we make politicians aware of our traffic congestion problems?.By assuming that politicians are unaware of the traffic congestion problems, the statement defines the problem narrowly.
When the assumption is not valid, the problem statement fails to direct the focus of the analysis in the right direction.Example for cause number four: How can we persuade the politicians to build more highways to reduce traffic congestion?.This problem statement is narrow and assumes a solution.
In the case of inappropriate assumption, it misdirects the analytic focus.6. Ways to Restate Problem.Paraphrase.
Initial statement: How can we minimize commuting time?.Paraphrased statement: How can we keep the commuting time from increasing?.This puts a spin on the meaning and leads to new perspectives and insights.Opposite View.
How can we reduce the traffic congestion? Becomes.How can we increase traffic congestion?.By either increasing the number of cars or making more cars commute during the peak traffic congestion period. One solution would be to have higher toll charges during peak traffic.
Better solution: Dynamic pricing of toll charge based on how fast the traffic is moving.Broaden the focus by using a larger context.Should I start my own business?.How can I achieve financial security?.Initial statement boils down to a yes or now whereas the second statement generates alternate options.
Change Focus.How can I quit my job and start my own business? Becomes.How can I generate multiple streams of income?.Ask why repeatedly till you get to the essence of the real problem.How can I get to work quickly?.
Why? Because, instead of wasting time on commuting, I want to spend it on building my business.Restatement: How can I spend the commuting time on business? (Answer: Listen to CDs during commute).Why? Because I want to setup profit making business quickly.Restatement: How can I setup profit making business quickly? Delegate, enroll in mentorship program etc.Conclusion.
This divergent technique reveals important perspectives and issues that we must consider during solving a given problem. Use simple, positive, and active voice sentences to restate problems. This makes it easier to grasp and analyze the problem.
.My name is Bala Paranj. I have a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Wichita State University. After graduation, I worked in the Bay Area for 5 years. I now have 10 years experience in the IT industry.
I have worked as a Technical Support Engineer, Programmer, Developer, and as a Project Lead.I was a Math buff in high school and scored 198 out of 200 in the final exam. When I was in grad school, I worked as a tutor in Math lab. I also got an A in "Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes". I was the topper in my class. In my career I acquired real-world problem solving skills by experience.
I have always been interested in problem solving techniques. So, I have continued studying and doing research to learn more about problem solving. I find it very fascinating to apply these techniques to solve real-world problems. It is a challenge for me to explain the most complicated concepts in a simple way that is very easy to understand for anyone. I thoroughly enjoy it.
Please check out: http://www.ProblemSolvingSkill.net.
By: Bala Paranj