Who What Where When Why How

Problem Solving 101 – laying out the whole issue logically and clearly


Problem, issue, concern, challenge – whatever you and your organization want to call them, they are everywhere.  Now remember back to sometime in grade school when your teacher first introduced you to journalism and the points that should be covered in a newspaper story, the 5 ‘W’s’ – who, what, where, when & why.  This is your key to being an effective problem solver.  I’ve added how to this list.


Problem solving has 3 basic steps:

Identify it

Define it

Determine potential solutions


Using the 5 W’s + how gives you a broad template for defining the problem.  You can also use this framework to craft any communications that you will have to make on your path to the solution.  Usually in identifying the problem, you get most of the pieces to define it but they might be scattered or unclear.


If you take the time to put them together to make a logical outline, then you are already providing value and on your way to a solution.  If you have to enlist someone else in the quest, you can quickly bring them up to speed.


Why and How will require some thought, maybe application of related knowledge that you possess.  They will also help you to decide if there is an underlying cause that you should address first.  Getting to the root of the issue will make repeats less likely and make you more efficient.  For instance if you have a client that constantly requires emergency deliveries – you would certainly appear helpful if you act every time to get the delivery completed, but think of how much better it would be if you figure out why this is a repeated issue and provide an overall solution.


“Only by contending with challenges that seem to be beyond your strength to handle at the moment you can grow more surely toward the stars.”

~Brian Tracy


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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