When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier.
So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand, because there's a web of interrelated issues.
The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.
For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work.
So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success.
Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem.With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively.Without one, your solutions may be ineffective, or you'll get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences.The good news is that there are numerous tools you can use to make sense of this tangled mess!Many of these help you create a clear visual representation of the situation, so that you can better understand what's going on. To generate viable solutions, you must have a solid understanding of what's causing the problem.Appreciative Inquiry is designed to help you understand complex problems so that you can start the process of solving them.It uses four stages to help you uncover more details about what's creating the problem, and then define actions that will improve the situation.Quite often, what may seem to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems.Going back to our example, substandard work could be caused by insufficient skills, but excessive workloads could also be contributing, as could excessively short lead times and poor motivation.There are four basic steps in solving a problem: Steps 2 to 4 of this process are covered in depth in other areas of Mind Tools.For these, see our sections on Creativity for step 2 (generating alternatives); Decision Making for step 3 (evaluating and selecting alternatives); and Project Management for step 4 (implementing solutions).