I am Batman - Bulletproof problem solving

In addition to being a super buff guy, who beat the heck out of Baddies, Batman was also a world class problem solver and detective. For a normal guy to go up against those tons of super smart villains as well as coming out on top in a couple of tussles with Superman, Batman knew how to solve tough problems.

Being able to tackle big problems and structure them is absolutely key to success.

There are many times when you will be confronted with something and you have no idea what to do. Even trying to find a place to start is hard.

To deal with this, take a step back and engage in the 7 steps to bullet-proof problem solving, a method largely popularized by McKinsey but used by many -

1. Define the Problem
2. Build the Issue Tree
3. Build the Storyline
4. Write the Workplan
5. Gather Data and Analyze
6. Synthesize and determine the So What?
7. Communicate, get feedback and build alignment

To break it down piece by piece 

1. Define the Problem
Clearly defining what problem you are trying to solve, the scope and what a potential answer would look like is key otherwise you won't be able to tell if you are solving the right thing and if you have gotten to an answer at all. If you don't pre-define, hindsight bias can corrupt your results and the integrity of your process.

2. Build the Issue Tree
Once you have defined your problem, you need to break it down with an issue tree, and you want your issue tree to be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive or MECE so that you can break down your problem into manageable/solvable parts and to make sure you don't miss any part of the problem. By diagramming it with an issue tree you can easily and visually see if you are addressing everything or if you are not cleanly delineating the problem. This will keep you from solving aspects twice or having different answers to the same problem which is hard to clean up, and reduces the chance of a correct answer. 

3. Build the Storyline
Once you have your issue tree, now you need to take a guess at what your answer will look like.  Not to say you will guess your answer and then try and gather the data that fits it, but that you will plan for an answer that addresses all the key questions raised by your questions and issue tree. This will allow you to structure what analysis you will need to perform so you can actually determine the answer.

4. Write the Workplan
Once your storyline is done, now you know what you need to do. To make sure it all gets done plan for an owner and due dates for each piece. This way you will ensure your beautiful storyline gets filled out and when you build your answer big pieces are missing when you need them.

5. Gather Data and Analyze
Now the work has been assigned, you need to get the information that will allow you to get to the answer and then analyze it so it becomes an answer and not just a collection of data vomited up on to a page (sooo not pretty)

6. Synthesize and determine the So What?
You did all this work, you have all this data, So What? The So What is the impact of the data. If you have an answer to a problem that is impossible to implement or doesn't provide anything of value, you haven't really answered your problem. Your 'So What?' should tell you the implications of your answer and allow you to take the next step in solving your problem, build your product, completing your project, running your business. Otherwise you have failed.

7. Communicate, get feedback and build alignment
After you have everything you need to determine, who is going to be effected by, this, how do you communicate it to them so they understand the full impact of this and if you are in an organization build alignment so people agree with what should be done.


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