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7 Incredible Techniques to Easily Solve the Root of Any Problem

7 Incredible Techniques to Easily Solve the Root of Any Problem

Do you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over? Have some of your poor choices morphed into bad habits? All of us can probably agree that there are things we’d like to change about our actions or circumstances.

Maybe you keep getting drawn into bad relationships, or you can’t stop binge-eating cupcakes, or you are never on time. Perhaps your car breaks down every week, or you always get into arguments with your in-laws. Regardless of what problem you face, there are many ways to reach a solution.

Our problems tend to stick around when we treat the symptoms rather than eliminate their causes. Our knee-jerk response to whatever troubles us may provide temporary relief, but the problem will continue to manifest itself unless we can identify the root.

Get to the heart of your problem, always.

Reactivity is the enemy of a calm and happy existence. Instead of developing sustainable strategies to address your problems, reactivity forces you to spend your days putting out fires. To solve problems, you will need to be proactive.

Performing causal analysis or root cause analysis can help you identify the root of your problems so that you can eliminate the issue for good.[1] Causal analysis can help you anticipate future problems, eliminate current issues, and develop an action-plan to resolve trouble.[2]

When you perform root cause analysis, you can differentiate between correlation and causation. We most often think of using this type of analysis to understand current or past problems, but hypothetical causal analysis enables you to predict outcomes before you commit to an action.[3]

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Seven tried-and-true techniques for solving any problem

Employing one of these causal analysis techniques can help you find a sustainable solution.

1. 5 Whys Analysis

One of the simplest causal analysis methods involves asking yourself “why” five times.[4] You start by identifying the problem. “My house is always disorganized.” Then, you ask yourself why that is the case. You create a chain of inquiry that offers insight about the core of the problem. Find out how to do a good 5 Whys analysis here.

2. Pareto Analysis

This is sometimes referred to as the “80/20 Rule.” The idea here is that 20% of your actions cause 80% of the results.[5]

Usually, when you are having a problem, there are a few major contributors, referred to as the “vital few.” Then there are the “trivial many,” smaller problems which can deepen the effects of a poor habit or problematic mindset.

Many people go after one of the “trivial many” instead of focusing on the “vital few” causes that are creating the most trouble.

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    As you can see from the diagram, the x-axis contains contributing factors for tardiness. The left y-axis represents the number of instances in which the lateness occurs. The right y-axis shows you how the number of instances stacks up against the percentage of the total problem. The orange line is the cumulative percentage of the problems that contribute to lateness overall. As you can see, traffic, child care, and public transportation were the major contributors to tardiness. If you wanted to improve your punctuality, you should focus on traffic, child care, and public transportation issues because they are the most common causes for lateness.

    While this method appears complicated, there are many software templates available to you to facilitate this type of visualization.

    3. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

    This multi-step causal analysis can illustrate the root of your problem, but it is also an effective way to anticipate difficulties when you are trying something new.[6]

    1. Begin by ascertaining the problem (real or anticipated).
    2. Then, name all the things that are contributing to the failure.
    3. Ask yourself how often the failure is occurring.
    4. List the actions you have taken to ensure that the failure does not recur.
    5. Analyze whether those solutions worked for you.

    You can revisit this line of inquiry at any time, but it is especially valuable after you restructure a procedure or policy.

    4. Fault Tree Analysis

    This visual model for ascertaining the root of problems is best employed where matters of safety are concerned. While Boolean algebra can make this model more robust, at its most basic level, you begin this analysis by naming the problem. Below the problem, you create boxes which contain factors contributing to the undesired outcome. Unlike other models, which encourage you to think about broad potential contributors, fault tree analysis requires that you look at what is known and deduce meaning from that.[7]

    5. Current Reality Tree (CRT)

    When you are dealing with a number of problems at the same time, the CRT can be an effective way to understand what the problems are and what connections exist between them.

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    For example, you may have noticed that your boss is mad at you all the time, you are late on a frequent basis, and you are often too fatigued to work.

    1. Place each of these undesirable effects, your angry boss, tardiness, and fatigue, into their own box at the bottom of your tree.
    2. Brainstorm the possible causes for each of these problems independently, and place each cause in its own box as a “branch” sprouting from the tree.
    3. Take time to analyze each of the problems that you listed in connection to one another as “If…then” statements. “If my boss is angry with me, then is it related to my frequent tardiness.”
    4. Connect ideas in your CRT with arrows.

    Eventually you will notice common threads between the undesirable effects.[8]

    6. RPR (Rapid Problem Resolution) Diagnosis

    This type of causal analysis involves three main steps.

    1. In the discovery phase, you collect information to ascertain problems.
    2. During the investigation phase, you create a plan based off the data that you have collected.
    3. Finally, you set your plan in motion.

    If you choose to use this type of causal analysis, you should periodically check in to ensure that you properly identified the problem and your solution is working as intended.[9]

    7. Cause-and-Effect Diagram or “Fishbone” Diagram

    This means of visualizing a problem is useful whether you are working on your own or with a team.[10]

    As with other models, you start by identifying your problem. One horizontal line, cuts through the center of your diagram like the spine of a fish, hence the name. Several diagonal lines radiate from the spine.

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    At the top of each of these lines, write the type of cause that contributes to the problem. For example, if your problem is that you are frequently unhappy, categories of causes that contribute to your problem could be family, work, and health. Ask yourself why each of these categories feeds into your problem. These are the causes for your symptoms. A symptom of your unhappiness rooted in your family might be that you feel disconnected from your partner. Brainstorm as many causes in the categories as you can.

    After you finish your diagram, you will have a better sense of where your problem originates. You may notice that some categories have more causes that contribute to the undesired symptom than others. You can also think about how these categories are connected. Rather than trying to chop the head off the hydra, you can develop of systematic plan that deals with the issue at its core.

      Which method should you try?

      There are a plethora of causal analysis options with varying levels of complexity. If you have lots of data about your problem, Pareto analysis and fault-tree analysis, are great options. All the models are fairly flexible to accommodate a wide range of problems, though some were developed specifically for business or IT. The common thread in all of these methods is that they require self-reflection and a chain of inquiry.

      Next time you feel like you are spending more time putting out fires than living your life, give one or more of these causal analyses a try. You’d be amazed at how effective your problem-solving will be when you can get to the heart of the issue.

      Reference

      [1] Bright Hub Project Management: Overviews of different root cause analysis methods
      [2] Quality Assurance: Causal Analysis Guidelines
      [3] LinkedIn: Causal Analysis
      [4] iSixSigma: Determine the Root Cause: 5 Whys
      [5] Project Smart: Pareto Analysis Step by Step
      [6] ASQ: Failure Mode Effects Analysis
      [7] Clifton Ericson: Fault Tree Analysis
      [8] CIRAS: Building a Current Reality Tree
      [9] MBA Brief: Rapid Problem Resolution
      [10] ASQ: Fishbone (Ishikawa) Diagram

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      Angelina Phebus

      Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

      Foods That Can Suppress Appetite And Help With Weight Loss Quality or Quantity? Why Don’t You Sleep On It What it Feels Like To Be The Child of Your Children? Pick Your Job Based On What You Love To Do, Not How Much You Have Invested In. How to Become Successful 10 Times Easier: Don’t Focus on Improving Your Faults

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      Last Updated on November 18, 2019

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

      Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

      How do we manage that?

      I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

      The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

      How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

        One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

        At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

        After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

        • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
        • She could publish all her articles on time
        • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

        Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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        1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

        When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

        My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

        Use this time to:

        • Look at the big picture.
        • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
        • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

        2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

        This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

        It works like this:

        Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

        By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

          To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

          Low Cost + High Benefit

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          Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

          Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

          High Cost + High Benefit

          Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

          Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

          Low Cost + Low Benefit

          This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

          These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

          High Cost + Low Benefit

          Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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          For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

          Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

            After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

              And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

              Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

              Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

              What to do in these cases?

              Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

              For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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              Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

                Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

                The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

                By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

                And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

                Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

                Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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                Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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