Best problem solving framework

Best problem solving framework


Ten years ago, when I first started working as a product manager, our team was assigned a big project. We were tasked with creating a better user experience for those using our site. The idea behind this was that users usually stick to the services in the app and do not interact with each other. If it were easier for them to chat and do things together, their experience would be more memorable. So, we put all our effort into designing an amazing way for users to find interesting activities to do with other members.

However, we soon discovered that our product was not user-friendly enough. We had user complaints and customer problem reports coming in fast and furious. After much research and soul-searching, we realized that user problems could only be solved if we understood the root cause of them, instead of just fixing symptoms. We decided to create a framework that would help us solve user problems systematically.

I genuinely believe that the single most crucial step in fixing any problem is to nail the problem description. Although deceptively simple to go wrong, it is a superpower of the best leaders when used effectively. Fortunately, all it takes are three easy steps:

Step 1: Define the problem you're trying to solve.

Step 2: Discuss the problem with key stakeholders.

Step 3: Return to the problem repeatedly.

A little bit of context.

This framework works best when you have a project in mind, such as a new feature or product. You can use this framework to explore user problems, find solutions, and obtain user feedback at each step of the process. This is especially useful if you are working with a team that has varying levels of technical knowledge. We have used this framework on countless occasions to solve user problems in a systematic way, and it has proved invaluable in our efforts. To set up your project for success, go through the following steps before you start designing or engineering.

Step 1: Define the problem you're trying to solve.

Start by responding to the following inquiries about your project:

- Description: What is it, exactly?

- Problem: What problem is this resolving, exactly?

- Why: How do we know that this is a genuine issue that merits attention?

- Success: How do we know when we've succeeded in solving this issue?

- Audience: Who are we building this for?

- What: How does this appear in the final product?

By defining the problem you are trying to solve, you will have a much better understanding of what needs to be done and the resources needed.

Step 2: Discuss the problem with key stakeholders.

I normally go about this stage as follows:

1) I try Step 1 for a start.

2) Distribute the document to the full team working on this project. Ask for opinions (in comments, in email, or in person). Reshare after taking feedback into account.

3) It's fantastic if the team appears to be in sync and the feedback is converging. If not, gather everyone and have a face-to-face discussion about the issues.

4) Share with your stakeholders once your team has come together. Before you dive too far into design or engineering, it is crucial that your team and the people who will be evaluating your performance are in agreement on the problem you are trying to solve.

5) Gather the team for a physical kickoff where you go over the problem statement once more, respond to any unanswered queries, and make sure your team has everything they need.

Step 3: Return to the problem repeatedly.

Make sure your team considers the problem statement first in every review. Ask "What problem are we trying to solve?". Review the problem statement in each progress report to stakeholders to ensure that everyone is still on the same page on the desired result. Make sure to question yourself, "Am I feeling certain this is going to answer the problem we set out to tackle?" before committing to finishing designs.

Conclusion 🚀

This user-problems framework is not a one-time activity but rather an ongoing process. Throughout your project and beyond, keep returning to the problem so that you can stay on the same page with your team and stakeholders. You'll be able to spot customer problems quickly and confidently make decisions about what works best for the user experience.

I know this issue-solving framework will help you bring your projects from concept to completion!

Practicing it will ensure that everyone is staying focused on user problems and customer needs. It’s a simple but powerful tool to help you quickly solve product issues, no matter the size or complexity. So get out there and start solving those user problems! You’ve got this. 😊