Problem Solving Model


Isaken and Treffinger’s problem solving model (1985) is a creative step by step approach to – unsurprisingly – solving problems. It has proven itself to be a key tool in the suite of Business Analysis tools. Once you understand how to utilise each step, it can become an incredibly powerful process.   

1) Mess Finding

This is where we typically begin when investigating a problem and understanding just how complex the problem is; how many components it impacts, and where one could start with seeking a resolution for the problem.

2) Data Finding

Now the scope / scale of the issue is broadly understood, it is time to qualify the issue by analysing thoughts, opinions, facts and information, and where can data be obtained that supports these.  Understand what you now know, and what you still need to know about the problem. 

3) Problem Finding

In this step, based on what you’ve ascertained in the mess finding step, and qualified in the data finding step it is time to state the problem. Stating the problem with clarity will invite different perspectives that can be taken on it. This is the centre of the problem finding model; both figuratively & literally.

4) Idea Finding

Ideation. Ideation. Ideation. Generate a pool of ideas, don’t discount any potential routes / directions at this point, no matter how ‘out there’ they may seem. Get creative, get wild, they can always be dismissed in the following stage.

5) Solution Finding

Evaluate all the options generated in the idea finding step; identify the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Define criteria on how to assess each of the options, based on criteria specific to the problem under assessment, this could be: cost, speed, 3rd party involvement. Select the solution to progress with.

6) Acceptance Finding

This step is accepting and executing the proposed solution determined in the solution finding step. Ultimately implementing the solution to the problem.

About the author


I am London based Ecommerce Business Analyst & Technical Lead. Always keen to chat.