29 Jun 2010

Problem solving and the pyramid principle

We've been having first class training on problem solving at On Purpose with trainers from the top management consultancies.

To date, we have learnt how to: (1) define a problem; (2), structure it so as to break it down into smaller problems you can tackle; (3) identify the analysis we need to develop in order to solve the problems; and finally (4) develop a presentation to communicate what is relevant to the specific audience.
(1)    Defining a problem in a structured framework allows us to have a clear idea about what we want to achieve. The outcome is a full written statement of the problem + information on its context and other important matters.
(2)    Once you have this question, the challenge is to identify the necessary analyses needed to solve the problem. That’s when we were introduced to one of our the core knowledge from this programme: how to break down a problem into its constituent parts, using issue trees. It is a simple concept of hierarchy that forces you to always think which is the most effective and efficient way to solve a problem.
If you are confused about this concept don’t give up. We have learnt that it is just a question of practicing, practicing and more practicing. At its most simple, you have to bear in mind that 
the ultimate question to solve is at the top of the hierarchy. All the analyses that you need have to answer a part of that overall question. If you follow this framework you will  only perform relevant and necessary analyses and so avoid “boiling the ocean”.
(3)    What next? More information does not necessarily mean more insight and may not help you communicate your solution. One way to communicate your solution effectively is to use the pyramid principle (http://www.barbaraminto.com/). We have learnt the last piece of the puzzle, which is how to write a storyline.  One simple way of thinking about this is always to start your presentations with the chapter headings/agenda items and then filling in the detail as a second step, rather than beginning at the start and carrying on  till you reach the end. 
You get to see the final product before even start working on it. Very helpful technique!

I hope you'll enjoy thinking about these things as much as I did. For those of you who want to check examples before writing a presentation why not having a look at: http://www.slideshare.net/ where there are hundreds of examples of slide presentations.

Good luck!


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