What’s the solution?


Whats The Solution Narrow

We love working with clients to find solutions. Whether that’s through running workshops, undertaking research, holding stakeholder interviews or creating inspiring strategies. We find solutions to problems that need to be solved. Solutions to step into opportunities that present themselves. And solutions that in the fundraising sector enable us to raise more money to support our brilliant causes.

In order to be equipped to maximise the opportunity, it’s important to have fully understood the challenge that is being faced. Hitting that ‘aha’ moment in problem solving is all about understanding: what are we here to do? Everything falls from that understanding but there’s a vital step that comes beforehand to reach the ‘aha’ moment. Understanding the root cause of the problem or opportunity.

So how do we make sure we’re focusing our efforts on the right area? To do this, it’s really important to make sure we’ve analysed the problem properly and understood what the root cause of the challenge is. The same works for opportunities – it’s important to make sure we understand the core of the opportunity rather than seeing it at the surface level.

Ready to dive in? Our guide below offers our approach to problem solving.

Getting to the heart of the problem

To ensure that you’re solving the right problem, use our helpful step by step guide to get to the heart of what needs to be addressed. The first question to answer is ‘how do we know this is a problem or an opportunity’? Ask yourself ‘is this based on an assumption or data’? And then to follow up – ‘what caused this in the first instance’? Asking these questions will start to narrow down the channels you need to explore to solve the problem properly.

Root cause analysis

Understanding the root cause of a problem is about treating the cause rather than the symptoms. Too often with problem solving and opportunity spotting, analysis stays at a top line level and if the symptoms are treated rather than the root cause, it may be that a solution is being designed for a problem that has been incorrectly identified. It’s important not to skip this step!

When we delve deeper into understanding the root of the problem, we make sure that any future solutions fit our actual needs. This can be challenging work. It can be easy to face a simple symptom that can be managed with a quick win, but if there’s an underlying problem not being looked at, it will continue to affect your progress.

Tools to help define the issue
  • Asking why: One of the easiest tools to use is simply asking why. Pop yourself in the shoes of an inquisitive toddler and ask ‘why’ over and over until you run out of answers. That will be the point that you uncover the root of the problem. This can take many layers of enquiry so keep asking and pushing until you have truly defined the issue.
  • Fishbone diagram: If you’re trying to look at the component parts of a problem then Ishikawa’s fish diagram can help look at the various causes that contribute to an overall issue. This is particularly helpful for complex and layered issues, perhaps the kind that a cross organisational strategy aims to address.
  • Iceberg analysis: Treating the problem like an iceberg can also help you to understand what is happening on a surface level and what is going on underneath. Looking at what people can see as the tip of the iceberg and what sits below the surface as the root cause can offer a different perspective on approaching your problem.
Create a problem statement

Being able to define the problem or opportunity in a single statement can be helpful and ensures focus when it comes to designing solutions. A problem statement should be able to easily quantify the problem so that all team members involved know the root cause and are aligned in understanding. A problem statement should be simple and direct and be able to address the heart of the issue in hand. If you’re struggling to define your problem statement this may be a sign that the root cause problem isn’t being addressed.

Explore potential solutions

Once your problem or opportunity has been properly identified and understood at its core, designing solutions becomes easier. Writing a goal statement as the opposite of your problem statement will create a path from where you currently are to where you need to be. Creating solutions can be an inclusive way to bring teams together, offering them the problem statement and goal statement and running a workshop to see what solutions might fit between the two. Creating solutions through a brainstorming or brainwriting exercise offers lot of options for what needs to happen next.

Some of these options will be no brainers and some options might feel a little high risk. Categorising your solutions will help you decide which ones are desirable and address the right cause. Understanding how these can be implemented with your budget and resources will lead you to the next steps to take to solve the problem or move forwards into the opportunity.

How do we keep this solution in place?

Once you have gone through these steps, the outcome should be one or a series of solutions to put in place to address the problem you’ve identified. At this point it can be easy to take your foot off the pedal and allow the solution to take care of itself. However, putting some extra checks and measures in at this point will ensure that the solution you have devised will continue to be effective and make sure the original problem doesn’t come back. Think about who is responsible for managing the solution and how to measure its impact as it is delivered.