Before you can work on fixing a problem you have to first work out exactly what the problem is.  Teasing out the exact nature of a problem can be taxing and challenging work.  But if you don’t do it effectively, you are not in a strong position to solve it.

So, how should you go about this task?  If the problem is a personal one, you may need to work on it alone; or you might be able to get someone you trust to help you.  Just be careful you get someone who is capable and qualified to help.  If it is a business problem, work with others in your business, if you can.

The key is to be concrete.  Vague notions of the problem aren’t much help when it comes to finding solutions.  You need to be able to specify what is not working, what should be discarded, and what should be improved.

It is going to be more difficult to be specific about the problem if you are not clear about your purpose and where you want to go.  If you have no idea of your purpose or where you want to go in life or in business, it is hard to determine what currently works and doesn’t.

Make a list of all the things that don’t help you get where you want to go.  Be very specific about behaviours, processes, procedures, resources, or whatever seems to be the problem.  Then priorities them in terms of how bad they are.  List the worst ones first – the ones you would most like to solve.

If you are considering an organisational problem, it is a good idea to spend half an hour or so brainstorming the problem with a chosen sample of people from across the organisation.  Different perspectives are important for getting a clearer idea of what the problem is.  You may need a couple of sessions to define the problem in detail.

Problem solving is an integral part of change fitness.  Change fitness is not about how you solve problems; it is about how you get good at solving problems.   It is not so much about technique as it is about capacity.

Dr Steve Barlow

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at